Cynthia Hatfield '04, an adjunct professor at the University of the Virgin Islands who'd received an MA in Art Education from MICA, wanted to create a community arts program similar to what she had experienced at MICA. She raised funds and started the SmART Summer Institute, a six-week community arts program that Hatfield said "gave the island's most gifted teen artists a place to gain skills and build friendships they wouldn't normally have access to."
Last summer, the program took place at three sites-the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts, the neighborhood of Mon Bijou, and the University of the Virgin Islands. Joining Hatfield in the yearlong planning of the project were Nora Howell '10 '11 and Michelle Faulkner '10 '11, both of whom had received an MA in Community Arts and an MFA in Community Arts. Through community-centered art experiences, more than 100 of the island's youths learned new artmaking, problem-solving, and conceptual skills. "The program was designed to use art as both the means and focal point for youth to express themselves as well as the issues that mattered most to them," Howell said.
The friendships that were forged between the youth, teachers from the island, and MICA students still resonate. "I still get emails updating me on what they're doing," Faulkner said. The program's success was also a testament to MICA's ability to train art leaders since MICA "gave me the skills, the training, the practical experience, as well as the confidence that I needed to lead my teaching team and the youth at the Caribbean Museum," Howell said.
While the three SmART Institute programs were different, they all built upon MICA's belief in the power of cultural exchange. "These types of exchanges can lead us to even more effective and transformational approaches to art," Hatfield said.