What Does Art Mean to You? Arts in Action and Education with Rebecca Pappas

Photo: Jaymie Bianca ’21, Rebecca Pappas, Danyel Hudson ’20, Gisselle Hudson, Max Eichner ’20, and Kayla Pena ’20 take a class trip to University of Hartford Art School. Not pictured, Erick Pena ’20.

What does art mean to you? According to a collaborative vision board created by Rebecca Pappas’ Arts in Action students, “Art sings to the masses of people,” “art is the child of imagination and reality,” and “art is the sword against absurdity.”  These answers were included in the collaborative vision board created by Arts in Action students which is now on display at the University of Hartford Art School’s exhibit READING ROOM: Urgent Pedagogies, an immersive and participatory exhibition built through collaborative processes with students, artists, and faculty at the University of Hartford and beyond. The Arts in Action course is based on the assumption that the arts do make a difference that is often underestimated in our cultural value system, and students examine the role that arts play as active agents in a community.

Collaborative vision board created by Fall 2019 Arts in Action students Kimberly Alexander, Nat Bush, Andrew Connor, Julianne Freeman, Hannah Hain, Guillermo Hercules, Gisselle Hernandez, Claire Pritchard, Sabrina Shu, and Sarah Vazquez.A pivotal part of the course includes hands-on work in the community where students choose an arts organization in Hartford to observe and volunteer with for the semester. Their assignments include collaborative projects such as the vision board as well as site visits to their community partner organizations and a final class presentation including a public writing component where they reflect on their experiences. Claire Pritchard ’20, who partnered with Charter Oak Cultural Center said,


I took the bus more times this semester than I had in all my previous semesters at Trinity combined. I was headed downtown to Charter Oak Cultural Center for the hands-on part of my Arts in Action class. Without my Bantam Bus Pass, I would’ve stayed on campus all semester…I’ve gained confidence from this experience, in that I feel like a part of something. Everyone was excited to hear I was taking a class that required me to go into the city and engage with people. It was like both the city and the students were craving connection, but we students had been blind to the obvious solution, which is to get out there.

Sarah Vazquez ’19 who worked with Hartford Stage said,

The partnership Trinity College has with Hartford Stage is one of the main reasons I chose to attend this school for my undergraduate education. I can confidently say that without exposure to this robust theater education program my career path and goals would be vastly different than what they are today. One of the key concepts that my summer at Hartford Stage taught me was that you must trust yourself in your creative and leadership processes.”

Gisselle Hernandez ’22 partnered with the Connecticut Historical Society:

“During these observation hours we met with somebody that identifies as a folklorist and she explained to us what she decided to research. She told us how she started talking to women around Hartford and how many of them had stories about why they came to the United States and how they were all refugees. Although they all spoke different languages and had different stories, they all had one common thing that brought them together: knitting.

This semester, Rebecca Pappas’ is also teaching the Community Learning course “Arts in Education” (THDN 272), which is a companion course to Arts in Action. We tagged along with the class when they visited the University of Hartford Art School to see the Arts in Action vision board as well as full exhibit.

Max Eichner ’20 observes one of the participatory displays that asks, “What is Justice?” Observers write their answers on sticky notes and attach them to the piece.


Through the semester, Arts in Education students have been learning about the ways arts are taught and used in studios and classrooms and what it means to be an artist and an educator. For the Community Learning component of the course, they have also been in residence at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.

To see how Rebecca Pappas built Community Learning components into the Arts in Action course, take a look at her syllabus here.

At Trinity College we define Community Learning courses as those that include perspective taking and mutually beneficial relationships with community partners. If you are interested in building a Community Learning component into your course, or you believe your course should be designated  as a Community Learning course, contact Director of Community Learning Megan.Hartline@trincoll.edu

If you are interested in featuring your Community Learning course on our website, contact CHER Communications & Data Assistant Erica.Crowley@trincoll.edu.