This fall, dozens of art projects will emerge across North Texas with a common goal – creating social change. The projects are part of an initiative called Make Art With Purpose – or MAP. Janeil Engelstad leads the effort.
By the early 1990s, Engelstad’s career was already on the rise. She’d earned an MFA in photography from NYU. Her work was included in gallery shows.
But as her professional life was taking off, she began volunteering, teaching photography to homeless kids. She got hooked on the combination of art and social activism.
“I was in a group show where I had three straight photographs," Engelstad said. "And it wasn’t that I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment -- I felt like I was showing something that I was no longer connected to and it didn’t make sense for me."
Engelstad decided to shift her focus to social art. And she’s become a force in the growing field, creating work around the world and lecturing at universities. She’s lived in Dallas for more than a decade, and now she’s finally taking on a major venture in her adopted hometown.
Engelstad has recruited artists from North Texas and around the world for Make Art With Purpose, a collection of art projects that address issues as varied as domestic violence, immigration, gentrification and environmental concerns.
Morehshin Allahyari is a new-media artist and visiting assistant professor at University of Texas at Dallas. She moved to the U.S. from Iran in 2007, but her homeland’s history of censorship has stayed with her. Since 2010, she’s been working on an online video performance art piece in which she teaches viewers how to censor.
Later this month, Allahyari will explore censorship with a live audience for her contribution to MAP. At UTD, visitors will watch a similar performance piece and be asked for their feedback.
“It’s not just about a person coming and seeing a performance,” she says. “It’s really about community building, it’s about getting the people who are there or who are interested in topics like this to participate, or if they don’t know much about it, think deeper.”