University seminar features Seitu Jones


Photo Courtesy of Samantha McCain

Artist Seitu Ken Jones speaks at the Crossroads Community Meal in Sept. of 2019. Jones spoke at a seminar hosted by the University on April 14 about how art can create social movements.

By Alex Chang, Staff Writer

The University hosted a seminar on April 14 featuring Seitu Jones, an influential artist in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Jones’s seminar focused on the role that artists have on starting conversations within communities, especially in relation to the power that art and artists have on sparking popular movements.

“With art, we as artists are able to reach people and get the ball rolling for the self reflection that we as a community need right now,” Jones said. 

“You look at every political movement, and specifically the African American movements, and art will be intricately tied into that movement,” Jones said. “I was a part of the Black Arts movement, working to raise awareness about these issues.” 

However, Jones stressed that his role was not purely an artist but as a focusing channel for the needs of a community. Throughout the seminar, a strong focus was on how art has been integral to a sense of community in an area.

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“We as a society do not spend enough time talking about love,” Jones said. “Even in this interview, the forum last night, we need to talk about loving ourselves and loving others. We have to continue to be persistent and struggle to love others.” 

Jones spoke about the influence that previous Black artists had on the U.S. and portrayed his work as continuing a long legacy. 

One key inspiration cited by him was George Washington Carver, most famous for his work in agriculture and botany.

The seminar was hosted by the Center for Advanced Study under the MillerComm Lecture Series, a program where influential experts in various fields come to the University and speak about topics that they find important.

The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the MillerComm series has been huge, according to Sharon Irish, research affiliate in the School of Informational Sciences.

“The original plan was for Seitu to come down for fall, winter and spring semesters and give three talks and sit in on classes, but obviously that didn’t happen with COVID,” Irish said.

However, Irish explained that the online format of the MillerComm Lectures has had both positive and negative impacts.

“On one hand, obviously there was less interaction with the format of Zoom, but also we were able to have people from all over the world come in and speak and listen to these events, which is something that wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” Irish said.

The MillerComm Lecture Series was established as a part of the George A. Miller endowment given to the University to fund programs which enrich the University community “outside of general operations,” according to the Center for Advanced Studies website.

MillerComm Lectures are scheduled roughly weekly, with speakers in many different fields. A main focus on these lectures is the intersection of academic fields in real world topics and exploring these unlikely intersections.

A recording of “73 Stains: Sweet Potatoes, Sustenance, and Sustainability,” along with all other MillerComm Lectures can be viewed on the Center for Advanced Study mediaspace page.

A full portfolio of Jones’s works can be found on his studio’s website.


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