This spring, nine Princeton undergraduate students in HUM 352, “Arts in the Invisible City: Race, Policy, Performance,” explored the vibrant arts scene in Trenton, New Jersey, through the lens of activism.
The interdisciplinary course, taught by D. Vance Smith (English) and Nyssa Chow (Humanities Council, Lewis Center for the Arts), examined the historical and contemporary racism that has shaped Trenton — the so-called “invisible” city between New York and Philadelphia.
Students attended a performance at the Passage Theatre Company, visited the studio of Afro-Latina artist Tamara Torres, and took a walking tour of Trenton’s murals with graffiti artist Leon Rainbow. For their final project, students conducted oral history interviews with a range of Trenton artists.
“I think of this course as an opportunity to practice activism as a kind of close listening with humility. I’m challenging my students to think about the vast differences in economics and access to services between Princeton and Trenton,” said Smith, in a story featured on the University homepage. “What I hope they take away from this course is the idea that people outside the academy, outside institutions like Princeton, have a lot to offer. It simply is a matter of respecting that, of learning to value what they say.”
The course was developed from a team-teaching grant from the Humanities Council and supported by the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project. Team-taught courses examine larger questions and major texts, building bridges either within the humanistic disciplines or across the humanities, creative arts, social sciences, and natural sciences.