“The Off sites are really important to the city itself because it’s where residents come forward to show the art they make,” Grabski said. “It means everybody gets to participate, and there’s something really lovely about that level of success. It tells me there are many kinds of art that can be out there, and they can all coexist. I think that’s an important message for us.”

From art historians who do research internationally to faculty artists who work across the globe to students studying abroad, the School of Art already taps into the global art world, and Grabski said the visit to Dakar is the first step in expanding the school’s global focus.  

“I think that we have a lot to learn from artists who are making art in other parts of the world,” she said, “especially about the publics that they access, how they work with communities, their reasons for making art and how they use technology — and by that I mean any kind of indigenous knowledge and new knowledge. I think asking questions helps us better understand our own practices.”

Solis and photography alumna Ashley Czajkowski interviewed and recorded artists discussing their work and the art-making process. Solis said they hope to share those stories and what they learned in Dakar with students this fall.

“One of the Herberger Institute’s biggest initiatives is engaging community and the arts,” Solis said. “We’re seeing that in a place where this engagement is thriving and looking at how we can take that away and bring some of those interventions here.”

Grabski said she wants the global initiatives in the school to lead to more off-site experiential learning for students. She also said this global focus will provide alumni a platform to engage in new conversations about their work and will allow faculty to scale their work.

While in Africa, Solis and Czajkowski also interviewed mothers from the region for Creative Push, an ongoing multimedia visual-art and oral-history project that explores birth.

“It was fascinating and expanded my thinking about this subject,” Solis said.

In addition to scaling work and learning from artists around the world, Grabski said she plans to eventually create a global art school alliance.

“What I’d like to do is to bring together different interlocutors from different art schools around the world and create a conversation about global art practice at the level of art school pedagogy. We have so much to learn from each other,” Grabski said. “We need a platform for larger conversations about being an artist on this planet.”

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts