By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Hoping to build stronger ties between St. Ambrose University and the Davenport community, two groups have joined forces to Re/Build Community. The effort is the focus of the 14th annual St. Ambrose College of Arts and Sciences theme series.
Organizers say the 2021-22 series follows on the heels of a global pandemic, continuing racial injustice, attempted disruptions to democracy, and a heightened sense of division, which calls for re/building community. The series opens up diverse pathways for inquiry and exploration across the St. Ambrose campus and larger Quad-Cities region, said Joseph Lappie and Brittany Tullis, project coordinators for St. Ambrose. “This concept is applicable across wide disciplines and areas of study, engaging in multiple contemporary and historical realities while linking local issues to global concerns,” they said.
The initial framework for this year’s theme of conversations began with Jordan Campbell and Jon Veal, co-founders of alt_ (pronounced alt space). “A small group of faculty and staff, led by SAU Gallery Director Chris Reno, were working to bring Jon and Jordan to Davenport to both showcase their work and to start building some momentum around building stronger community ties between St. Ambrose and the wider Davenport community,” Lappie said. The organizers spent time “talking about the importance of what it means not to just rebuild community in the face of a global pandemic, but to keep building community with the spirit of inclusivity at its core.”
As plans took shape to invite Campbell and Veal to Davenport to engage community partners in an artistic project designed to re/build community through “artivism” and action, the theme of Re/Building Community emerged as a goal for the academic year. The dean and associate dean of the College of Arts and Science vetted the proposal, Lappie said. “Collectively, we’ve had a long year. Some of us have had a longer year than others due to the COVID-19 pandemic, continued racial injustice and increasing political division.”
The sponsored events and actions featured in this year’s theme are straightforward and easy to connect with, Tullis said. “They seek to introduce, educate and grow our understanding of the people we live with and interact with every day. A community is built through trust and time, through listening and experiencing, through admitting ignorance and embracing difference.”
Projects such as Club Fest and the Mental Health Fair are examples of events that provide positive self-care healing opportunities, opportunities to grow as a group, and to aid one another in feeling less alone, Lappie said. The university is highlighting heritage months such as Hispanic and Latinx Month in September to acknowledge the contributions of cultures sustaining the Quad Cities and St. Ambrose community and to recognize “that they are cared for, that there is no us and them, only we.”
“We’re spotlighting regional organizations like Argrow’s House, which works tirelessly to provide for marginalized and at-risk populations and aid in their healing by instilling the knowledge that everyone is important. This theme seeks to call on people to speak up and speak out for many facets of our amazing, growing community.”
All events are open to the public. Some will be in-person, some hybrid and some virtual. For virtual events, links will be provided. The platform typically used is WebEx.
A calendar of events and details are available at http://www.sau.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/project-series. Additional events will be added. Announcements about events will be rolled out a month at a time due to the pandemic. This allows flexibility for the speakers.
“This work of re/building community is an effort that cannot be contained within a single year. It’s the kind of work that must continue. The good news is that it is endlessly rewarding, too. We all have the power to transform the spaces in which we live and work simply by coming together, sharing ideas or food or art or conversation, and growing together as individuals and as a collective whole,” Lappie said. “We might not always share the same perspectives or viewpoints, but we are always strengthened by this coming together. We hope that the events that have been organized for this year offer an opportunity to do just that, and that we can all keep the momentum going well beyond this spring.”