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At VCFA, Reimagine Public Space as a Platform for Social Action

Andres L. Hernandez, workshop faculty in VCFA’s Graduate Studies in Art & Design Education program, practices what he teaches.

At Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA), we see art and education as having important roles in the pursuit of social justice. We encourage our artist-teachers to see opportunities for their work to help uncover and address inequality and to take actions to make their classes, schools, community, and worlds more fair and inclusive places and to inspire their students to do the same.

Andres L. Hernandez, workshop faculty in VCFA’s Graduate Studies in Art & Design Education program, is a Chicago-based artist, designer, and educator who works with youth and adults to reimagine their communities. His creative practice explores ways in which private and public spaces can be used as vehicles for social change. Because of his focus on social justice within the built environment of urban communities, Hernandez was chosen to serve on the exhibition design team for the Obama Presidential Center, and to represent the United States as a co-exhibitor at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

This past year, Hernandez was the inaugural artist-in-residence at Curie Metropolitan High School, as part of the MCA Chicago’s School Partnership for Art And Civic Engagement (SPACE) program. While there, Hernandez worked with teachers and students to explore ideas around school and community safety and youth empowerment. Together they asked: How do we (re)activate spaces in which we feel we have no power? How do we create spaces where young people can be their authentic selves?

As a member of VCFA’s Graduate Studies in Art & Design Education program, Andres inspires future educators to examine their own spaces and communities, and to see their teaching practice as an opportunity to affect social change. He inspires other educators to teach what they preach — an inclusion of dialogue about social injustices, economic inequality and its effect on the communities we live in.

VCFA’s Graduate Studies in Art & Design Education offers five different workshops per summer as part of our innovative curriculum in our low-residency Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and Master of Arts (MA) in Art & Design Education degrees. The MAT, for aspiring educators, is an immersive, two-year graduate program that synthesizes two summer residencies with home-based classroom observations and student teaching, leading to K-12 certification for licensure. The one-year low-residency MA is for already licensed educators looking to invigorate their practice and expand their leadership opportunities.

Hernandez serves as workshop faculty during summer residency, teaching a participatory class that examines the art of working with people and physical landscapes, and considers their impact on creative and pedagogical practices in the classroom. Graduate students engage in hands-on creative activities in the field, working individually and collaboratively to document and envision local spaces built upon values of cooperation, equity, justice, and sustainability.

For more information, visit vcfa.edu/art-design-education.

(Pictured: Amanda Williams and Andres L. Hernandez, “A Way, Away (Listen While I Say)”; photo by Michael B. Thomas.)