A 2014 Engaged Faculty Fellow, Ananda Suarez is an assistant professor in the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Read her faculty profile for more information.
With support from Engaged Learning + Research, Ananda Cohen Suarez developed a new course with her colleague, Ella Diaz, dedicated to researching and documenting the historic murals of East Harlem, commonly known as “El Barrio.” These vibrant mural paintings, which adorn the walls of tenement buildings and shops, honor the lives, losses, and histories of the neighborhood’s predominantly Latino/a community. The murals remain poorly documented and face the risk of removal as encroaching development and gentrification continue to alter East Harlem’s urban environment.
This project enables students to research the images from an art historical and literary perspective, linking them with broader artistic, cultural, and political movements in the 1960s-1990s, when the majority of the mural was created. Students would participate in art and preservation in action. Art history and literary studies will be utilized as powerful agents of community development and dialogue, enabling students to recognize the potential for the humanities to work outside the classroom toward tangible outcomes. The students will collaborate with community partners in New York City and conduct interviews with some of the muralists.
The project culminated in both a student-curated show of photographs taken during their trip to East Harlem at Rockefeller Hall as well as the development of an interactive digital archive of the murals and the research carried out on them. With this critical groundwork laid for the study and appreciation of East Harlem’s important artistic patrimony, Ananda hopes to expand this project to other neighborhoods, particularly the Lower East Side and the South Bronx. With further knowledge and recognition comes institutional support. Ultimately, Ananda hopes that these initiatives will make a strong case for their continued preservation so that the murals can continue to remain a source of pride and markers of history for their communities.
- Collaborate with Ella Diaz on the major themes, methodologies, and theoretical framework of this collaborative service learning course
- Communicate with potential partners in East Harlem, including community members, mural artists, activists, and non-profit organizations
- Develop partnerships with key institutions dedicated to archiving East Harlem history and its urban environment
- Provide students with the necessary training in art historical, literary, ethnographic, and site-based research methods through a “trial run” of visiting and researching historic murals in the Ithaca region, with assistance from the Johnson Museum of Art
- Conduct a field trip to New York City, where students will choose a mural to research and document and meet with relevant community members
- Facilitate a student-curated exhibition of their field photographs at the Latino Studies Program in Rockefeller Hall in December 2014
- Develop a public digital archive of the East Harlem murals that integrates the students’ research and photographs, along with testimony from residents and artists.
Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program
A yearlong cohort program in which faculty dive deep into the theory and practice of engaged learning; meet monthly to discuss readings, share projects and workshop challenges; and help transform what it means to teach at Cornell