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Socially-Activated Art Thrives with Support from UW–Madison’s Division of the Arts’ Artivism Student Action Program (ASAP)

Photo by Sanaa Semia

Special promotional content provided by UW Division of the Arts.

In the midst of the uprising following George Floyd’s murder by police, the UW–Madison Division of the Arts was inspired to mobilize our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts in new, more concrete ways. Encouraged by students’ energy to create art-based interrogations of longstanding oppressions, biases and inequities, the Division of the Arts sought $20,000 in seed funding from UW–Madison’s Anonymous Fund to power the Artivism Student Action Program (ASAP)

With this funding, we have supported student-led endeavors—both individual as well as those in cross-campus and community partnership—that emerge from the intersections of art and activism to address social issues, facilitate dialogue and create spaces in which social transformation can be imagined and implemented. ASAP aims to fund a variety of projects and related expenditures for any creative action intersecting art and activism with particular attention paid to projects that feature, center, benefit and/or are led by community members experiencing identity-based oppression.

ASAP is a unique resource in UW–Madison’s campus community in that it provides students with direct and immediate financial assistance through a low-barrier application and reporting process. Over the summer, the Division of the Arts learned from colleagues across the country about similar offerings at their universities, which helped inform the development of ASAP’s application process and guidelines. Early in the fall semester, we hosted an introductory gathering where students looking to channel creativity into activism were invited to learn more about the grants available to them or their registered student organization (RSO), ranging from $100 to $5,000. We quickly learned from the deluge of inquiries and highly qualified proposals that programs like ASAP are wanted and necessary—perhaps now more than ever—to fund students’ voices and demands for the sake of our communities’ futures. We are thrilled that in our pilot year, ASAP funds were awarded within about one month’s time.  

Please join the Division of the Arts in congratulating the first annual ASAP award recipients. The following project descriptions exemplify the breadth, depth and creativity of art and activism that ASAP strives to support. 

Photo by Sanaa Semia

Islamic Art Night | Sanaa Semia

The first Muslim-interest sorority on campus, Alpha Lambda Rho, held a presentation about the architecture, textiles and design of mosques. Participants represented their backgrounds, or any design of their choosing, by painting their own mosques. One of the first few ASAP recipients, ALR leader Sanaa Semia considers the Islamic Art Night a resounding success, stating that “this event would not have been possible without the support of the ASAP grant,” and that “continuing [ASAP] is helpful for UW–Madison students.” 

DREAMers Fall Kickoff Meeting | Jazmine Zuniga-Paiz

During the fall kickoff for DREAMers, a student organization which advocates for undocumented and DACA-recipient students, ASAP funds were used to integrate artmaking into the meeting.

Networking Through the Arts | Elias Sobah and Augusta Ike 

The Wisconsin Black Student Union (WBSU) and Gamma Epsilon (GE) Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. collaborated to host an alumni and current student Networking through the Arts event at the Fluno Center, which centered around community-building, professional networking and student artists articulating their identities.

Queer X Asian Open Mic | Sophia Boté and Ciboney Reglos

An audience of more than seventy enjoyed a variety of student performances during the Queer x Asian Open Mic Night in the Memorial Union’s Der Rathskeller. Billed as a celebration of intersecting queer and Asian identities through spoken word, music and more, the open mic featured a special performance from Filipina poet and UW–Madison alumna, Gretchen Carvajal.

Photo by Jeff Miller, featuring Event Coordinator and Social Justice Hub operations intern Sophia Boté

Photo by Jeff Miller, featuring Event Coordinator and Social Justice Hub operations intern Sophia Boté

South Philly Legends | Jason Hill, Azeem Williams and Jaylin Reid 

ASAP will support the production of an album featuring a wide range of producers, rappers, singers and poets from across the country, with the intent to “help voice objections to the on-going violence, racial discrimination and issues of poverty within our communities,” says OMAI-First Wave scholar, rapper and project lead Jason Hill. 

Chai Stories | Praveen Maripelly

Performed by Praveen Maripelly, an MFA candidate in 4D, Chai Stories is a series of community-building conversations with homemade, vegan chai, occurring in the atrium of the Art Lofts. Maripelly aims to build community and investigate the meaning of social engagement, community and outside life in the context of other cultures through these performances. 

Photo by Praveen Maripelly


Don Giovanni | Lindsey Meekhof and Aubrie Jacobson

Doctor of Musical Arts candidate Lindsey Meekhof, in collaboration with pianist Aubrie Jacobson, will produce and record a staging of Don Giovanni in acknowledgement of the #MeToo Movement. Illuminating the problematic ways in which the opera perpetuates misogyny, this rendition will offer a thematic alternative for future productions. Filming and production will take place in January 2022, with plans for an April 2022 video premiere.  

The Gusset: A Midwestern BIPOC Poetry Anthology | 

Zack Lesmeister, Azura Tyabji, and Sarah Abbas

This poetry anthology aims to celebrate the diversity of writing offered by midwestern, BIPOC poets. Up to seventy-five writers will receive an honorarium for their work to be published in print and online formats.

Endurance Queen | Dan Van Note

Dan Van Note, a Master of Arts candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, reproduced Endurance Queen, an annual piece performed on Indigenous Peoples’ Day consisting of an independent marathon run in sneakers followed by a runway walk in heels. This was the fourth year Van Note performed Endurance Queen to celebrate queer identity through durational performance art.