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Purchase College Opened New Center for Engagement

On March 6, Purchase College, SUNY opened The Center for Engagement. Part of an ongoing commitment to fostering dialogue and community, the new Center will bring together organizations whose projects inspire community engagement, encourage open dialogue, and impact social change.

This alliance of organizations includes a variety of non-profits whose initiatives include creating arts programs in prisons, encouraging civic dialogue, supporting local Latinx populations, and rebuilding a corner of Detroit, among other projects.

The alliance members will use the Center as a creative hub as they tackle urgent issues in contemporary life through multi-disciplinary research, advocacy, and innovative programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Designed as a shared workspace, the Center will have the added advantage of allowing non-profits to share expenses and resources such as office space, technology support, interns, and knowledge.

Founding organizations include For Freedoms, Ghana Think Tank, RTA: Rehabilitation Through the Arts, and Casa Purchase. The Center is currently accepting inquiries from other non-profits with aligning missions.

Purchase College Provost Barry Pearson said, “I believe there is no better way to create a culture of advocacy and social engagement then by welcoming organizations to campus to collaborate with each other and with our Purchase community.”

Katherine Vockins, Founder and Executive Director of RTA, said, “RTA’s residence at the Center for Engagement provides a unique opportunity to share space and resources with like-minded creative non-profits interested in social justice, and we are already discovering alignments in our missions and possibilities for collaboration. We are also delighted to be part of the vibrant arts, social science, and liberal arts culture at Purchase College.”

The ribbon cutting included remarks by Provost Pearson; Katherine Vockins, RTA founder and executive director; Eric Gottesman, Purchase College assistant professor of Art + Design and co-founder of For Freedoms; and Christopher Robbins, Director, School of Art + Design, Purchase College and co-founder of Ghana Think Tank.

About the Founding Organizations

Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA)’s mission is to use the transformative power of the arts to develop social and cognitive skills that prisoners need for successful reintegration into the community. RTA also seeks to raise public awareness about the humanity behind prison walls. Founded at Sing Sing in 1996, RTA operates a wide-ranging arts program in NYS prisons in the Hudson Valley serving 200 incarcerated men and women.

Founded in 2016 by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedoms is a platform for creative civic engagement, discourse, and direct action. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—For Freedoms’ exhibitions, installations, and public programs use art to deepen public discussions on civic issues and core values, and to advocate for equality, dialogue, and civic participation. As a nexus between art, politics, commerce, and education, For Freedoms aims to inject anti-partisan, critical thinking that fine art requires into the political landscape through programming, exhibitions, and public artworks. In 2018, For Freedoms launched the 50 State Initiative: the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history.

Ghana Think Tank (GTT) seeks to “develop the first world,” by sending problems in the “developed” world to think tanks established in Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, El Salvador, and Morocco, among other countries. Their current project, the award-winning American Riad, is an Art and Housing Justice project that focuses on rebuilding a street-corner in Detroit through a shared community space modeled on a Moroccan Riad.

Casa Purchase, an Outreach Center for Latin American Studies, was born of the desire to reach out to the local Latinx population to work collectively in those areas they define as most important. Casa Purchase weaves together the educational, artistic, and research opportunities of Purchase College with the needs of local residents and officials, their schools, and their organizations.

About Purchase College, SUNY

Purchase College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) network of 64 universities and colleges, was founded in 1967 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. His aspiration for Purchase was to create a dynamic campus that combined conservatory training in the visual and performing arts with programs in the liberal arts and sciences, in order to inspire an appreciation for both intellectual and artistic talents in all students. Today, Purchase College, SUNY is a community of students, faculty, and friends where open-minded engagement with the creative process leads to a lifetime of intellectual growth and professional opportunity. For more information about the College, visit www.purchase.edu

PHOTO CAPTION: Purchase College launched The Center for Engagement on March 6 in a refurbished, historic house on campus. The Center will bring together organizations whose projects inspire community engagement, encourage open dialogue, and impact social change. The opening of The Center included remarks by (l to r) Purchase College Provost Barry Pearson; Christopher Robbins, Director, School of Art + Design, Purchase College and co-founder of Ghana Think Tank; Katherine Vockins, RTA founder and executive director; and Eric Gottesman, Purchase College assistant professor of Art + Design and co-founder of For Freedoms. Credit: Bryant Alexander.