Arts Features

Art and Social Change

Photo Credit: Elena Eisenstadt

When shopping at Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, or Pacsun, it’s rare to consider the meaning of the art on a piece of clothing. Art and Social Change, a J-Term course I took taught by Megan Culp and Robin Friedman, made me actually think about the designs on a T-shirt and the artists behind them. I enjoyed the freedom this class offered to be open and outspoken when discussing artists’ work and prominent pieces of art.

During the course, we explored multiple artists and their art, both abstract and realistic, which addressed social justice issues. Afterwards, we moved onto creating our own work about a cause we were passionate about. We started off with an activity called “Art Tasting,” where we were provided with a variety of different artists who either confront or have confronted social justice issues. These artists included Shepard Fairey, a street artist, graphic designer, and founder of the clothing brand OBEY; Ai Wei Wei, whose art of all different mediums challenges China’s government; and Picasso, whose “Guernica” speaks to the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. 

After we researched selected artists, we discussed what we found interesting or confusing about them. Then we moved on to a study of an artist with a partner. One artist we studied was Keith Haring, whose iconic work spread awareness about AIDS and can be found on shirts in Urban Outfitters. We also learned about Banksy, an anonymous artist whose work speaks to a wide range of social justice issues, primarily ones that are often underrepresented by the media. Once we had an understanding of how art can shed light on social justice, we focused on creating our own pieces. We used a wide range of materials including watercolor, acrylics, ink, and magazine cutouts. We were encouraged to try different techniques, such as bookmaking, printing, or using Flashe (a matte, vinyl-based paint) or acrylic paint on posters.  This class taught me more than just how to make art; it made me think about why art is important. Through murals, museums, and even street art, we can spread awareness about issues in society to a wide range of people. Like protesting, art is a form of self-expression where people can creatively take part in fighting for social justice.

Features Food


Photo Credit: Scott Foley

People either love or hate pickles; there’s no in between. No matter your feelings toward them, pickles seem to have always been around and we don’t often think about the process that it takes to make them. 

During the first rotation of January Term, one of the classes I took was called “Preserved,” taught by Caroline Santa and Sara Charme-Zane. The class was based on learning about food preservation and fermentation, processes that were developed to keep food edible for long periods of time. In this class, we made our own pickles, jam, sauerkraut, and kombucha. We also ate teas, cheeses, miso, dried fruit, and many other types of preserved food to examine the taste and smell of the items. With almost every experiment, we watched a video about the background of the food, the process of preservation, and the process of fermentation. After watching the videos, we journeyed to the Meetinghouse kitchen to start cooking. The experiments were a success; they tasted just like the store bought items, but the experience of making them ourselves made them so much more delicious. 

On our last day, we had a feast of everything we’d made along with other store bought items we tasted. This class exposed me to new ways to eat food and gave me useful skills. The lessons I learned will stick with me for a long time, as they have taught me that making food with my own hands gives it a special meaning. 

Arts Features


Art and writing by Sadie Hammarhead on her life while social distancing.

Features Food

The Winner Takes The Cake

Thanksgiving, or turkey day as some may call it. Either way, everyone immediately thinks of the big turkey sitting in the middle of the table surrounded by so many other side dishes. But my family, rather, values the next portion of the day. Dessert. We adore dessert. Cakes, pies, cookies. You either grab it or there’s nothing left—It’s every person for themselves. A couple years ago, my cousins snuck into the kitchen and started eating the cake in secret. Another time, they “didn’t have time” to cut the cake so they started grabbing it with their hands. Now, we’ve started pre-slicing the cakes, making it easier to grab and go. If you leave an uneaten slice of cake, it will undoubtedly be stolen. This year, my uncle was packing up some food to take home and left a slice of cake on the table. He went to get a drink, came back, and it was gone. We weren’t surprised because everyone was in a hurry to get home for shopping the next day. Even though we squabble over dessert, it means that we’re all together. That’s all that matters.

Features Food

Pies, Glorious Pies!

Often times, when one thinks of a Thanksgiving banquet, golden turkey, mashed potatoes, or dinner rolls come to mind. But what about something aside from the savory? What of the sweet, iconic, “save it for dessert” item? One of the first things that comes to mind, among other sweets, is pie. Be it pumpkin, apple, or blueberry, many think pie was originally created in America. Sure, America was the country that embraced pie—a classic dish that goes hand in hand with the rest of the Thanksgiving foods. Some people, however, believe pie was invented in early Europe, or even Egypt. This delicious pastry is the most quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, and it’s earned that title. With impeccable pecan and blueberry stuffing potential, pie makes the ultimate dish for beginner bakers who need something so error-free, delicious, and flexible that it’s almost impossible to mess up.

Pecan Pie


1 ½ cup of white flour

1-¾ cup of butter, diced

¼ cup of ice water

¼  teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of sugar 


3-4 eggs

¼ teaspoon of clove powder

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of cinnamon 

2 cups of pecan (extra if needed) 

½-¾ cups of brown sugar 

Columns Features Home Page Philadelphia

Eastern State Penitentiary

The Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) has been a national historic landmark since 1965, but in recent years, the institution has been making a concerted effort to include issues in contemporary prisons as a part of their tours and guided programming. Their updated mission reflects this, stating, “Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.”

“ESP has always been built on educating; now we’re just doing it in different outreach ways,” says Eastern State education specialist Samantha Hunter. In addition to outreach, ESP has instituted numerous exhibits that discuss the current state of mass incarceration. In 2012, the historic site began displaying signs with current statistics. In 2014, the museum created “The Big Graph,” a 16-foot metal structure with three sides detailing information about mass incarceration rates. The purpose of this installation is to illustrate the staggering differences between the American prison system and other countries. In 2016, ESP opened its “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration” exhibit. According to Hunter, “the display puts a more human face on having roughly 2.2 million incarcerated people in the U.S. today.”

While ESP has long desired to focus on current criminal justice issues, the noteority and funding have only recently been available to explore these topics. ESP will soon be debuting a new project entitled “Hidden Lives,” in which two teaching artists will instruct inmates on how to make 30-second movies. The videos will then be displayed on ESP’s outer wall. The museum haalso continued its returning citizen tour guide project for the past three years. This program makes it possible for those with a criminal record to work at ESP. Hunter hopes that this encourages visitors to empathize with people who have been incarcerated.

Thus far, the reactions to these recently added programs have been overwhelmingly positive. When ESP first began talking about contemporary issues, “people were a little nervous” said Hunter, “but our attendance keeps growing and growing, so it seems to be that talking about the evolution of the criminal justice system is the right way forward for our historic site.”

Eastern State is striving to be part of the national conversation on the efficacy of the prison system, and whether its reform is necessary.

“Mass incarceration is real, and it’s not working,” Hunter said. The institution feels responsible for “interpret[ing] the legacy of American criminal justice reform,” because the issues the system currently struggle with are akin to the struggles when the penitentiary opened in 1829. The age-old questions of what to do with a person who commits a crime, and what to do when they reenter society, are still questions being debated today. Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge that our current criminal justice system isn’t working. Hunter wants people to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. “We must think hard about how we heal from the damage that’s been done, and how we move forward.”