Later this month, Montavilla’s Vestal Elementary School will host its annual Social Justice Night. Starting at 4:30 p.m. on May 26th, Students and professional artists will showcase their work featuring collaborative artistic creations focused on community diversity and family identity. These themes represent two of Vestal’s five pillars of social justice. Organizers anticipate that this evening full of art, food, music, and community will strengthen the school’s role as a hub within this diverse neighborhood.
Funded in 2022 by a Metro’s Community Placemaking grant, with collaboration from PSU’s Artist as Citizen Initiative and arts nonprofit Montavilla Jazz, Vestal Elementary expects to expand programming for the yearly event. A welcoming dinner will occur before the performance at The Yard food carts, located directly across from the school, with complimentary meals coordinated with support from Samira Mohamed, owner of Mira’s East African Cuisine.
Before the event, the Artist as Citizen Initiative will lead PSU Capstone students and Vestal 4th graders in projects designed to build artistic skills in storytelling, interviewing, and creativity. All works center on community diversity and family identity, using information gathered in interviews with fellow students and community members. The artists will display their student-led social justice exhibits at the May event.
Located outdoors on the playground and inside the gymnasium at 161 NE 82nd Avenue, the Social Justice Night will include performances by renowned jazz musicians, including Grammy award-winning trombonist Denzel Mendoza. He is joined by Machado Mijiga, saxophonist Mary-Sue Tobin, and other performers and educators from the community.
For those who can not attend in person, PSU students will create a multipart podcast documentary featuring themes from the evening. PSU’s Sonic Arts and Music Production (SAMP) students and Friends of Noise will utilize field recordings captured during the creative phase of the project and at the May 26th event. Montavilla Jazz will distribute the podcast on montavillajazz.org, in addition to broadcasts on local radio stations.
Vestal community members, partners, and neighborhood residents are all invited to attend. Come hungry for food, music, and artistic expression.