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Civic Arts and Humanities at Eugene Lang College

This semester Simon Critchley is teaching a course as part of Eugene Lang College's Civic Arts and Humanities curriculum. Photo: Ben Ferari.

This semester Simon Critchley is teaching a course as part of Eugene Lang College’s Civic Arts and Humanities curriculum. Photo by Ben Ferarri.

Since its founding, The New School has pioneered new ways to connect artistic expression to public discourse. The university’s engaged instructor-practitioners have included famed artists like photographer Berenice Abbott and author James Baldwin. This semester, a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation carries on this tradition by helping New School students apply their studies to the world around them through opportunities to connect the arts and humanities with civic practice.

The Civic Arts and the Humanities program at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts was launched in January, offering five four-credit courses, three two-credit intensive courses, and a one-credit film festival at Lincoln Center. Funding from the Mellon Foundation has enabled Eugene Lang College faculty members to develop curricula that bring a range of industry representatives into the classroom.

In each course, visiting fellows from organizations including StoryCorps, the New York Times, and Nonesuch Records join New School students to link classroom work with community action and career development. Courses include Organizing for Freedom: Community Mobilizing Through Art and Education, Documenting Williamsburg: Living Los Sures, and Haitian Rara in New York: Diasporic Music and Dance.

“For a long time, civic engagement has been part of social science education, and now we’re making it a larger part of humanities and arts education,” says Stefania de Kenessey, associate professor of music, who leads the program. “Civic Arts and the Humanities connects students of music, philosophy, and writing with employers and shows them how they can make their mark on the world.”

The Mellon grant also provides funding for two student fellows per course, who help lead projects involving external partners while earning school credit. Lang senior Bryanna Lyle is a research assistant in Simon Critchley’s Philosophy and the Media course, in which Critchley’s writing in the New York Times’ philosophy blog The Stone is used as a starting point. Lyle is leading an effort to prepare The Stone for publication in book form.

“This is an opportunity to place everyday life in a liberal arts setting and show how liberal arts can be used in the real world,” says Lyle.

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