The Women’s & Gender Studies program at the University of South Carolina celebrates its 40th anniversary Tuesday, March 24, 2015, with an event that honors its past as well as its future. Art and social justice will be central elements of the celebration.
Formed in the early 1970s at the height of the women’s rights movement, the program focused on teaching and research on women’s contributions to history and culture as well as women’s role in society. Over the years, the program has grown to emphasize intersections of gender with race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and other areas of social inequality. In 2008, the Women’s Studies Program became the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Then and now the program emphasizes areas of women’s health and well-being; public policy, activism and social movements, as well as culture, literature and the arts. Social justice and community engagement are central to the mission and objectives of the program.
It is fitting that the 40th celebration, hosted by the Women’s & Gender Studies Partnership Council, honors three women – Marjorie Hammock, Harriet Hancock and Sarah Leverette -- who have fought the decades-long fight for social justice on the front lines in South Carolina. It is also fitting that a painting focused on women’s history and recently donated to the program will be unveiled at the event. Columbia artist Edmund Yaghjian’s 1971 painting The Beginning of Women’s Lib will be highlighted at the event. Yaghjian was a nationally prominent artist and served as Chair of USC’s Art Department from 1945-1966. The painting, in polymer, is a portrait of a suffragette being arrested and was one of the few paintings by Yaghjian that depicts a social message. It was donated to WGST by his daughter Candy Waites.
Also on exhibit at the event will be art from the program’s community outreach work. The Women’s Well-Being Initiative, founded by WGST to improve the overall well-being of South Carolina’s girls and women, believes that what is learned in the classroom translates to real-life outside the classroom. “Our arts-based juvenile justice arbitration program, coordinated through the Women’s Well-Being Initiative, offers behavioral rehabilitation interventions that give students a second chance,” says Dr. Sally Boyd, Chair of the WGST Partnership Council, the community board comprised of business, community, university and non-profit leaders. “Our research shows that adolescents who participate in these arts programs have the lowest recidivism rates of any similar programs,” Boyd says.
Dr. Olga Ivashkevich, Associate Professor of Art Education at USC, and an affiliate of the WGST program, conducts art and new media workshops for at-risk girls from local communities. Her research focuses on girlhood studies, social justice and feminist pedagogies. Works of art, created by Ivashkevich’s students, will be on display at the anniversary celebration as well. Their depiction of opportunities and challenges faced by young women and the underserved today are both moving and chilling in their honesty.
Art won’t be the only draw for the 40th celebration, however. The March 24th event is a fundraiser for the Women’s Well-Being Initiative. The party lasts from 6 pm until 9 pm, and features live jazz, open bar and plenty of good food and conversation. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased online.
USC Women’s & Gender Studies (WGST)
40th Anniversary Celebration
Hosted by the WGST Partnership Council
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
6 pm – 9 pm
12 Alexander Street, West Columbia
By Sheryl McAlister, editor of Old Broad & New Trix & member of WGST Partnership Council