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Art exhibit features works probing civil, human rights

January 21, 2011

Part recognition event, part educational opportunity, and part celebration, an upcoming art exhibition at ASU’s Fletcher Library at the West campus features the works of local artists, Phoenix South Mountain High School students, youth in detention, HUD housing residents and others.

“Human Rights Meet Civil Rights” will be featured at ASU’s Fletcher Library on the university’s West campus Jan. 22-March 18. The exhibit on the library’s second and third floors is presented by Cultural Arts Coalition, Arizona, and is free to the public.

The nearly two-month exhibit will highlight the works of 100 magnet arts high school students taught by seven visual arts teachers at South Mountain, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and crafts.

“This exhibition provides an opportunity to recognize the work of local high school student artists and professional artists around the fundamental issue of human rights,” said Judy Butzine, who joins Melanie Ohm as a co-founder and co-director of Cultural Arts Coalition, Arizona. “It expands opportunities for student and community learning through personal reflection and an exchange of ideas, both in the classroom and in the public arena.”

This is the coalition’s third year of presenting art exhibits by local professionals, students and others at Fletcher Library. Past exhibits have focused on peacebuilding and Latino cultures and communities.

“During the academic year, we often have one exhibit or another in the library almost constantly,” said Dennis Isbell, Fletcher Library director. “The library is developing a reputation as a place for groups to exhibit their work, which is important because they help the campus and the university make connections to the community, and they enrich the cultural environment of the library and the campus.”

The South Mountain High students will tour ASU’s West campus on Feb. 4 and visit with exhibit attendees and other artists.  During their visit, the students will hear from featured guest Joseph Perez, better known as Sentrock, a Valley dancer and a painter who has gained a Valley following by combining visual art, hip-hop and breakdancing to create innovative and unique works.

“We are celebrating student and community artists as valuable conveyors of information in the communities where they reside,” said Butzine, exhibit curator. “The South Mountain High School students have been considering the role of human rights and civil rights and what it means to enact peacebuilding.

“It is essential for all our youth to critically engage the concepts of human rights and civil rights in order to make informed decisions about their actions as citizens and leaders,” Butzine continued. “One human’s rights should never be diminished by another’s, whether it is a civil right or a human right.

“The artwork in this exhibition was selected for its perspective on this community concern.”

Ohm added the exhibition is particularly relevant in light of the recent shooting tragedy in Tucson that killed six and left 14 wounded, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

“The exhibition is dedicated to those who are committed to our democratic process for upholding the liberties we cherish,” she said. “During this time we honor those who have been impacted by this horrific event, including Representative Giffords for her efforts on behalf of human and civil rights.”

Isbell has seen the coalition exhibit grow and is impressed with the talent of local student artists.

“Every year the students’ work is very creative and engaging,” he noted. “In their artwork they are responding to things in their lives, such as friends, family and popular culture. I think each year there is more variety in the kinds of media the students are featuring, such as paint, photography, ceramics and many more.”

In the end, Ohm and Butzine hope those who visit the exhibit will leave with a greater sense of the value of visual arts as a means of communication to present concepts of community concern.

“In the process of viewing, reflecting and interpreting the artwork, we hope participants will also reflect on their ideas and beliefs about human and civil rights concerns,” said Ohm. “The intention is that these visual expressions create conversations that lead to respectful understanding and increased participant engagement where human rights and civil rights meet.

With the exception of university holidays and breaks, the exhibit will be open during Fletcher Library hours: 8 a.m.-11 p.m, Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday; noon-8 p.m., Sunday.

For more information about the exhibit, contact Judy Butzine ( or 602-375-9553) or Melanie Ohm (

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 West Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.  Parking on campus is $2/hour.