The St. Olaf College Artist Series hosted “The Kids are Alright: Art, Culture + Social Change” to show the public that, especially since the start of the pandemic, young people have always been ready to use their talents to promote social change. The series ran from March 7 to 11 and was organized by Daniel Alejandro Leon-Davis. As a native of Venezuela, Leon-Davis draws on his experiences as a gay Latino and formerly undocumented immigrant to fuel his work as a designer, entrepreneur, and cultural architect. Through his work, he seeks to use power of art, media, and entertainment for social good. Joining him was multidisciplinary artist Muna Malik, rapper, singer, and songwriter Caliph, and photographer and technologist Florian Koenigsberger.
St. Olaf students were also involved in the process of bringing this series to the college. “I joined the [artist series] committee and gave a student perspective on certain events we should have,” Jessenia Prado ’24 said. “For example, having […] an art workshop with Muna Malik was an idea I brought into the conversation.”
The St. Olaf community was made aware of the event through social media, posters, and word of mouth. “We got a social media tool kit as part of being a committee. So we posted on Instagram stories and in a post. All the students on the committee posted it on their personal Instagrams and just hit up their friends with word of mouth,” Prado said.
On Monday, “Through Our Eyes” was held in the Viking Theater at 4 p.m.. Koenigsberger and Malik hosted a conversation discussing their work, which aims to create social impact through art. Malik engaged participants in a live painting workshop exploring abstract expressionism on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Malik gave a keynote speech concerning “her non-traditional journey into the art world and the importance of building community, taking risks, and trusting your gut.” In the Link on Thursday, Malik gave participants the opportunity to have a one-on-one 15-minute conversation with her.
The second event, “Beyond Borders,” was held on Thursday with Grammy Award-winning musician Caliph, and Leon-Davis. “Beyond Borders” gave participants the chance to hear and discuss what it means to be an immigrant artist, creative, and community leader in the United States. The series closed on Friday, with an event titled “Immigrant of the Year” on the Pause Mane Stage. Caliph closed with a musical performance that brought to light his emotional journey as an immigrant in the U.S.. The music was from his 2021 album, “Immigrant of the Year,” and during the performance, St. Olaf student dancers performed alongside him and audience participation was heavily encouraged. Between each song, Caliph provided a brief story about what the upcoming song meant to him and explained how each song connected with the emotions and story with the song before.
“The music was so good and also the energy was really great. People could be sitting and still vibing, but then there was that really nice crowd and then dancing and seeing fellow classmates dancing,” Leila Rocha Fisher ’23 said. “I didn’t even know we were going to be dancing, which was iconic.”