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Erica Eaton in an interdisciplinary artist, educator, clinical social worker and activist based in Rochester, NY. Her work asks and acts upon questions that are based in social justice issues, primarily using story, video and writing. How do we build bridges between visionary thinking and lived realities to push theory into action? How can we bring what if to what is? When it comes to issues of social justice, can we move beyond having the same conversations and “preaching to the choir,” towards real-life, brick and mortar, life impacting actions? Erica has worked in residential settings, a homeless shelter and urban high schools since 1990. She taught in the Media Studies department at University at Buffalo, the MFA program at the Visual Studies Workshop/SUNY Brockport, Visual Studies department at Monroe Community College and the American Studies department at St. John Fisher College. Her work has been shown in art spaces locally and internationally, but she is most interested in working in and with communities. She founded and directed an international group of artists and activists, The Evolutionary Girls Club, which curated shows in countries around the world and published compilations and books between 2001 and 2011.
PhD in American Studies, University at Buffalo
MFA in Media Studies, University at Buffalo
MSW in Social Work, Syracuse University
BS in Social Work, Nazareth College
Areas of Expertise
Art, Video, Activism, Social Work, Visual, Photography, Education, Advocacy, Experimental, Photography, Women’s Studies, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Feminism, Media Studies, Media Literacy, K-12 Education
As I sat down to write this, I put in Doria Roberts’ tribute CD to Odetta, Blackeyed Susan, and the piece “Because” came on. It begins with Angela Davis’ voice: “People ask me, how did you become an activist.” She goes on to name events, but can’t quite pin it down. For some, activism isn’t a choice; it’s the only reasonable thing to do.
I move in spaces and places that are invisible to each other. This is a profound privilege that I respect deeply. I have stories that don’t seem to belong in the same book. I didn’t plan it this way. This is the particular path of learning and living that I’ve navigated, small step by small step, and often without the larger picture at the forefront of my decision-making.
I didn’t plan to be an activist or an artist. I listened and watched and landed here. Art became a tool for activism and sometimes a way to find relief from the literal. Academia is a way to be part of one kind of conversation. Clinical Social Work in an urban high school is another kind of tool. There is activism in bridging these worlds, in making them visible to each other through the intentional use of voice, body and action. Knowing one another is the surest way to transformation.
My practice, in short, uses the vehicles of art, academia, teaching and learning, clinical social work, grass roots old school social work and dialogue to put talk into walk…theory into action…within the context of daily life in ways that aims to create questions that unveil us to each other.