This week, students, groups and organizations across campus are hosting a series of arts events in what is known as Mutual Aid Art Week. Elliot Hanson ‘23 and Eli Watt ‘25 have been spearheading the initiative and working tirelessly to ensure that everything is organized adequately and runs smoothly.
Mutual Aid is still a relatively new organization on campus, so one of the week’s goals was to raise the organization’s and its mission’s visibility. Another goal was to increase Mutual Aid funds: “There are currently around $3000 of requests just sitting in the Venmo unfulfilled, even after the amazing “Carleton’s A Drag” show last weekend. Most of these requests are medical bills, outstanding tuition, necessary travel expenses and groceries. People have been waiting for funds for months at this point,” Hanson noted. Additionally, Mutual Aid is looking to increase non-monetary mutual aid, like ride-shares, thrift stores and textbook libraries.
The initial idea for a Mutual Aid Art Week first came to Hanson at the beginning of Winter Term. After finishing his comps, he wanted other events to look forward to throughout the spring; with more free time, he wanted to start making more art, but didn’t know where to begin. “Then, I was like, ‘I wish there were just a bunch of people that could teach me about different art forms…’ I was also wishing I could see more of the art that everyone on campus was producing. There are a ton of amazing artists on campus that I just have never been able to meet,” Hanson commented.
Hanson had already been doing the Carleton Earring Exchange for over a year at this point, which brought him into the Mutual Aid sphere. “I knew the club and its mission and wanted to support it as much as I could. The idea just kind of snowballed from there as I talked to friends about it and got their advice,” said Hanson.
After the idea was born, it was time to get to work — and planning a whole week of events was no small endeavor. Watt took a leading role beside Hanson, but a Mutual Aid Art Week Committee was also formed to help with everything from materials and funding to promotion and scheduling. The committee consisted of Charlotte Nahley ’23, Maya Feldberg-Bannatyne ’23, Eledon Beyene ’23, Tonushree Chowdhury ’24, Raquel Santamaria-Germani ’25 and Myles Fisher ’25.
“It took a terrifyingly long time to plan,” Hanson remarked. “Even though I knew that it was going to take a ton of time and effort to plan, I still grossly underestimated how much it took. This thing has been in the works since mid-winter.” Hanson thinks the event was certainly worth the immense amount of time and work he, Watt and the committee put in, and is eager to note that “watching an idea you have come together and actually be realized is really fulfilling.”
When it came to recruiting different groups or people to lead different events, the process was relatively simple, which Hanson described: “I kind of just came up with a list of offices that might be interested, I looked up or asked around to get names of people that I could talk to, and then I just shot them an email or just dropped by their office.”
Phoebe Ward ‘24 led a comic-making workshop this past Tuesday, May 9 as part of Mutual Aid Art Week’s scheduled events. She was happy to receive an email from Hanson and Watt and was excited not only to get involved with Mutual Aid, but also to connect with other cartoonists on campus.
Eight people came to the workshop, which Ward recounted: “I gave everyone a little package that included a copy of a Mutual Aid Zine (written by Grace Bassekle and illustrated/formatted by me), a cartoonist’s reference sheet that I drew, white paper and some pens provided by the Makerspace. We started with the questions, ‘What is your relationship to cartooning/comics/this workshop? i.e. what would you like to get out of this workshop? Also, more importantly, who are you?’”
Ward was pleased with the turnout and the cartoons that everyone in the workshop produced. The workshop was undoubtedly a success, and she remarked on how “it was moving to watch creativity bring people together. I hope there will be more Carleton Mutual Aid Art Weeks in the future.”
Aside from raising much-needed funds for Carleton Mutual Aid, the event comes with other benefits: “Establishing these relationships between Mutual Aid and our campus community allows us to establish ourselves within the institution and help the different offices of the school understand how they can help support Mutual Aid and its mission.”
Mutual Aid has become a critical component to the redistribution of wealth on campus since its establishment two years ago. However, in order for it to be successful, it is essential to garner student support and include all. Hanson emphasizes that “mutual aid is all about connectivity, accessibility and solidarity, this week serves to try to uphold these values. Art week is for the whole campus community, and we want to show that art is accessible to all. You can walk into these classes knowing nothing about them beforehand and walk out with a nice piece of artwork that you yourself created.”
Mutual Aid Art Week will conclude this Sunday, May 14, on the chapel lawn from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Spring Fest with the Mutual Aid Art Sale. Twelve artists will be coming and the donated art of dozens more will be for sale. There will also be free tacos, music and lawn games through the Rec, a portrait drawing booth through CAT and Vivify will be making a big public art piece that everyone can paint a small square of that will later be hung up on campus.
Beyene, a member of the Mutual Aid Art Week Committee who was largely involved in planning the art sale, leaves us with this: “Mutual Aid is a crucial aspect of Carleton’s community fully dedicated to fostering support for students. Any proceeds and donations gathered during Art Week will go towards Mutual Aid student requests. Mutual Aid offers a space where students’ needs are met beyond monetary support. However, if anyone is interested in upholding or participating in Mutual Aid, there is always a need for greater involvement and donations, so please volunteer for events, spread/share the goals and values of Mutual Aid and, if you can, donations are always welcome.”
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