Art that engages

A blend of artistic research and social fields of study

Roz Crews is CVPA's artist in residence and director of the Center for Undisciplined Research
Rozalyn Crews utilizes art projects in ways that intersect with issues discussed in other fields.

By Adrienne Wartts

Works of art pop up in unexpected places. People who view art are encouraged to interact with it. Art projects inspire dialogue about sustainability, music, and the meaning of community.

The Center for Undisciplined Research at the College of Visual & Performing Arts (CVPA) was created by Rozalyn Crews, a social practice artist who was hired as a visiting artist to introduce a new dynamic. Her nine-month, student-focused research group fuses artistic research with social fields of study. CVPA is collaborating with Housing and Residence Education on this effort.

“Because I design projects for specific places, it’s important to my process as an artist that I develop the work in dialogue with the place and the people there,” said Crews, whose primary goal is to connect first-year students from the residence halls to other people, places, and resources on campus and within the region.

In the fall, the Center installed portraits around “social justice heroes” at the New Bedford Art Museum, starting with first-year student Mark Kayanja’s portrait of Malcolm X. An ongoing drawing project for the current “SCAPES: Placemaking in the 21st Century” exhibition, also at the museum, includes weekly additions of new illustrations of emotional experiences to a large wall-drawing of New Bedford. Visitors can also submit an emotional experience to be illustrated.

There is a student-run exhibition space in Chestnut Residence Hall called Ant Farm/Art Fam, featuring work by 15 UMassD students. The Center released Publix, a photo catalogue of public art at UMass Dartmouth including controversial public art from the region.

“In collaboration with the Student Government Association, we’re launching a new opportunity for students to design a commissioned piece of public art for campus,” said Crews.

The Center has also partnered with the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement for a recycling/sustainability project, and will begin working with the School for Marine Science & Technology on a public installation featuring SMAST sustainability research. 

“The Center is about freely experimenting, questioning the many ways of learning about a topic, asking questions, exercising our right to assemble in honor of curiosity, trying out new forms of art making, putting art in public places, collaboration, and community building,” Crews said.

“As artists, we have so much freedom in how we engage with the world—one of the only professions that allows this kind of movability and self-organization.”

More information


College of Visual and Performing Arts, Faculty, Features Magazine