Critical Race Studies Program Examines Race Through Art

Part of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, the Critical Race Studies Residency program was established in 2017 thanks to a $750,000 gift from the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU). The MSUFCU gift is being spread out over a five-year period (2018-2022) in annual installments of $150,000.

The Critical Race Studies Residency brings different Artists-in-Residence to campus each year to enrich the life of student experiences and the greater community by facilitating practices of inclusion through art and design. The program is designed to empower artistic creativity that drives cultural transformation through a shared engagement with creative practice. The true impact of the program creates opportunities for shared experiences that embody the core values of MSU to cultivate diversity, create a positive environment, and embody inclusiveness with passion and determination.

As part of the program, the 2018-2019 Artists-in-Residence, Qais Assali and Helina Metaferia, produced substantial public projects that engaged in critical approaches to diversity and inclusion through creative practice. They each mounted solo presentations of their work, taught courses in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, and participated in outreach to the community throughout the year, working in some of MSU’s most publicly accessible spaces, such as (SCENE) Metrospace, MSU Union Art Gallery, Broad Art Museum, and Kresge Art Center, as well as locations in the greater Lansing community.

Qais Assali, 2018-2019 Artist-in-Residence 

Qais Assali, one of two 2018-2019 Artists-in-Residence, works with video, installation, sculpture, lecture performance, sound, photography, and in the archives to engage and subvert national geopolitical power dynamics. His interdisciplinary work stages questions between site and the body in relation to his own identity and locale in order to debunk metaphoric surrounding contested geographies.

Assali’s project at MSU was called “Doubling Displacement,” where he explored mimetics in art and diasporic aesthetics to open an American “New Palestine” as a political and metonymic space for discussion. The project dealt with creating connections between the U.S. Midwest and the Middle East, as well as the past and the present to question political future. Assali connected between sites, communities, and ideas he is discovering in areas such as New Palestine, Ohio, and New Palestine, Indiana; the Orientalist Shriners; and Dearborn, Michigan.

Helena Metaferia, 2018-2019 Artist-in-Residence

Helina Metaferia, one of two 2018-2019 Artists-in-Residence, has presented her work in solo and group exhibitions at venues including the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, California; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; New Museum, New York, New York; Galeria Labirynt, Lublin, Poland; and Museum of Modern Art, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her work has been reviewed by the San Francisco ChronicleBoston GlobeThe Washington PostBmore Art, and Performa Magazine.

At MSU, Metaferia screened her work, “(Middle) Passage for Dreams,” and worked on a new project, titled “By Way of Revolution,” which engaged collage, assemblage, performance, video, and participation/social practice to resurrect the spirit of social justice movements of the past in order to inform our present social-political movement.