Watch Curriculum/Collection Professor Larry Gant and Dave Choberka at UMMA’s Connecting with the Curriculum Event

Learn about how the Curriculum/Collection exhibition for Social Work 560 with Professor Larry Gant was curated and the importance of community art!

Watch Curriculum/Collection Professor Larry Gant and Dave Choberka at UMMA’s Connecting with the Curriculum Event

Introduction to Community Organization Social Work 560

In December, Curriculum/Collection was featured in “Connecting with the Curriculum: Arts Across the Disciplines," a web event facilitated by Laura Yoo, Assistant Director of Development at UMMA. The event featured a conversation between Dave Choberka, Andrew W. Mellon Curator for University Learning and Programs, and Larry Gant, Professor at the School of Social Work, whose class on community organizing, policy, and evaluation in Social Work is featured in Curriculum/Collection

Watch for Choberka's introduction to the Curriculum/Collection classes, including photographs of each class’s installation in the gallery, and then a deep dive with Gant into three pieces in the Social Work 560 collection: George Vargas’s Michigan Worker; Object Orange’s Auburndale Site, Highland Park, MI, #4; and Jon Onye Lockard’s King of Spades.

Some of the highlights of their conversation include Gant’s perspective on what involvement in Curriculum/Collection brought to his class; what he and Choberka were looking for as they curated the collection; and the importance of art to social work as a discipline.

Gant notes that incorporating art into social work classes is particularly important because oftentimes social workers are tasked with evaluating the communities they are entering, and art is an essential part of communities. 

“For a lot of students that are doing assessments of community need, and the strengths of a community, very seldom will they think about or acknowledge the art in communities—or if they do, they’ll think about one type,” Gant said. “There have got to be murals and murals are dominant community art and nothing else matters, right? And that’s not quite true.” 

Choberka and Gant also discuss how they were able to curate a Detroit-focused collection in which each piece could serve as case study to teach students about about local art beyond murals and Motown; how to view art as one way to tell a story about a neighborhood; and to challenge the assumption that artists making art about particular communities are always positively engaged with the neighborhood and its residents. 

Finally, in response to a question from UMMA director Christina Olsen, Gant explained that, despite the fact that art is overlooked in social work, it’s actually inextricably linked to the origins of the field. 

“During the first eras of social work in the United States, part of that was Settlement Houses—these houses that were developed in a lot of cities that were reservoirs for people coming in to do labor and to do work, primarily but not exclusively in the mid-eastern part of the United States. You never had a settlement house without some music, without dance lessons, without some language lessons, so art was always a part of the settlement house movement in social work and that was one of our origins. So I said [to my students], ‘Look, when we talk about the importance of music and art in community engagement for social work, we’re really talking about one of the core origins of the program.’ Social work has always been about using and working with people and arts in the community so that people never forgot their multiple identities,” Gant said.

Watch the full conversation above, or click here to open the video in a new window:

Watch the full conversation