The intermediate print workshop class, under guidance of Chancellor’s Professor Beauvais Lyons, recently finished a project based on the American Civil Liberties Union’s “Know Your Rights” campaign.
The finished project consists of four twelve-by-eighteen-inch inch aluminum screen-printed signs presenting the rights that individuals have when encountering law enforcement officers, including “You have the right to an interpreter,” and “Before talking to police, consult a lawyer.” The signs are currently posted on the UT College of Law campus.
As part of the project, the class read the ACLU’s Know Your Rights booklet and met with UT Professor Emerita of Law Fran Ansley, Cullen Wojcik from the public defender’s office, and Mary Campbell, a UT assistant professor of art history who received a law degree from Yale Law School in 2001.
The idea for the project came from Campbell and Wojcik, her husband. As attorneys, they have witnessed many occasions where individuals’ lack of knowledge about their civil rights put them in bad situations.
“We saw a lot of people who came in contact with the law and had no idea what their rights were. A lot of them became defendants and would have fared a lot better if they were simply more educated,” Campbell said.
Campbell and Wojcik had always felt like there should be a class or some way to educate people about their rights. When Campbell came to teach at UT in the fall of 2011, she met Lyons and saw a big opportunity for her idea to be realized. Lyons took the idea and ran with it, creating a fully involved class project.
Ansley found out about the project and was immediately interested. She said she’s seen an urgent need for new immigrants and refugees to have solid legal information about their rights—and for US-born people to be made aware of the injustices immigrants can face.
In meeting with lawyers like Campbell, Wojcik, and Ansley, the students learned what messages were important to convey to the audience.
“It was interesting to learn how civil rights aren’t always available—like if you are an illegal immigrant, you don’t have civil rights,” said student Sarah Crumley.
Students collaborated on the designs, which incorporate both images and text. They also deliberated on syntax, such as whether the word “lawyer” or “attorney” was more appropriate for this sensitive subject.
“Now, I look at signs differently when I’m just driving around. I catch myself thinking, ‘Oh look at the composition of that sign,’” said student Rachel Mezger. “Working on a project like this opens your eyes to everything around you.”
The installation near the Taylor Law Building may seem a bit like preaching to the choir, but it opens up possibilities for installations in more places. The class is currently working on finding other places to display the signs. They currently have a proposal to the city of Knoxville to have a more public audience.
“We always talk about doing cross-curriculum work, but I thought it was interesting that art can be legal and make a difference,” said student Jon Hendricks.
Lyons said each year he tries to get his students involved in a project aimed at the public.
“Now, as artists, the students have experiences beyond the white cube of the gallery, into the public sphere,” he said.
Student Jessica Rafferty said the project gave her a better understanding of public art and installation.
“This experience will help with future projects of mine and maybe an independent study on creating signs,” she said.
Working on a class-wide project was also a big learning experience. Students agreed that sharing the workload was easy, but refining the project and agreeing to the final products were more trying. There was not always agreement, and when they didn’t agree, it was brought to a vote.
Students in the class include Paige Berry, Sarah Crumley, Logan Davis, Krista Green, Victoria Haggarty, Jon Hendricks, Alexandria Mash, Rachel Mezger, Jessica Rafferty, Heather Reynolds, Alex Roberts, Deborah Rule, Lyndsey Stewart, and Georgia Vogel.
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