ARTISTS: Liz Slagus and Norene Leddy
SexEd is an on-going quest to expose the roots of sexual literacy in the U.S., and encourage a public discourse around the topics of sexual health and education. The goal of SexEd is to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address and create a collective, community-based federal sex education curriculum through a series of documented artist commissions and community collaborations. SexEd has been conceived of in two parts: a set of projects geared toward youth (age 8-18 years), SexEd 101; and a series directed toward adult and/or ‘continuing education’ participants and collaborators, SexEd 202. Both series of documented commissions and community projects are being developed for inclusion in SexEd publications. These illustrated text books will become the U.S. federal sex education curriculum: art-inspired, community-based and beyond abstinenece-only.
With both SexEd 101 and SexEd 202, the projects begin by opening the conversation around sexual health and literacy with a fresh perspective and set of tools that artists and art collectives can uniquely bring to the table. SexEd directly involves the community in building a curriculum that should exist for them and future generations. This approach places the actual process and development of sex education in the hands of those who can benefit most. Ultimately, art projects about sex and education will deliver an innovative federal sex education curriculum; covering a range of challenging material and changing the face of sex education in the U.S., as well as other countries looking for new models of excellence.
SexEd 202 begins with an exhibition and a series of workshops, events and conversations about the current state of sexual literacy and education in the United States at campus galleries and/or in collaboration with university LGBTQ Centers. SexEd 202 exhibitions will feature artist projects, publications and interviews with individuals working in and around the topics of sexual health and education, as well as information and resources from sexual health non-profits and institutions. The goal of the exhibition period is to provide ways to actively engage in and evolve the conversation of how we become sexually literate. The SexEd 202 exhibition period is meant to launch the ‘continuing education’ component of the SexEd Project in five different host communities. The exhibition and program series will use a similar format, but the artists and contributors will change in response to the different needs and interests of the respective host communities. Themes slated for exploration during the exhibitions and programming include: gender and sexual identiy, body knowledge and image, reproductive rights, safe sex practices/prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and pleasure.
During SexEd 202, the general public will be invited to access information, interact with and learn from various artists and organizations focused on sexual health issues. Workshops and artist talks during the exhibition will serve to inspire and arm the next generation of artists and art collectives who wish to engage communities through participatory projects; expanding the discussion about what and how we are, and are not, learning about sex. With a refreshed perspecitve, artists and collectives from the host community will be invited to submit project proposals about sex education for funding during the exhibition period, the SexEd 202 Commission. These proposals and their development process will generate a unique set of proposed contexts and audiences for learning and discourse to develop. One proposal will be selected by each host community during the final week of each SexEd
202 exhibition for the SexEd 202 Commission. Each selected proposal will receive funding for further development, execution, documentation and inclusion in the SexEd 202 publication. The university gallery and LGBTQ Center settings provide access to the core audience and artistic participants for the SexEd 202 Commission. It is the perfect platform for the exploration of ideas through workshops, conversations, and an on-going project with practical opportunities for artists and students alike to plug-in. The student and artistic communities native to the host location, in addition to the general public, are all invited to become a part of the conversation about sexual health and education, in addition to actively participating in changing and elevating the discourse surrounding teaching/learning about sex.
Exhibition schedule per host gallery/center:
Week 1: Artist projects, interviews with writers and academics, information and resources from sexual health and education organizations and institutions on view. Commission and community-wide RFP announced (sample RFP attached).
Week 2: “School of Sex in session.” Workshops and artist talks in gallery.
Week 3: Workshops continued. Proposal development in process.
Week 4: Proposals submitted and on-view. Public proposal selection event on closing date of exhibition. SexEd 202 Commission announced.
Workshops + Artist Talks: SexEd 202 artist talks and workshops will be open to the public, but geared toward artists or student collectives who would like to participate in SexEd 202 via proposals for the commission. The workshops will ‘school’ participants in hot topics around sexual health, methods for working with diverse audiences and developing projects and programs to start a dialogue about sensitive issues. Artist talks will detail past and current projects promoting sexual health and education, and provide an opportunity to engage in conversations with practitioners who have worked in these areas of focus.
SexEd 202 Commission/open selection process: Five artists and/or arts collectives will receive theSexEd 202 Commission by the end of the exhibition period. These individuals or groups will then have 6 months to implement their proposed ideas with a selected list of partners (see below) and venues (schools, community groups/centers, etc.); conducting research and development around sexual education, and generating a unique set of contexts and audiences that offer feasible solutions to how and what we are learning about sex. Selection of the SexEd 202 Commissions will take place during the exhibition period within each host community. One SexEd 202 Commission proposal, geared toward the specific topic (i.e., gender and sexual identiy, body knowledge and image, reproductive rights, safe sex practices/prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and pleasure) of each of the five exhibitions will win. All submitted proposals will be on view during the final week of the exhibitions. Commission contenders will have the opportunity to discuss their proposals (moderated by members of the SexEd curatorial team) with the host community during the exhibition closing event, which will conclude with a vote for the winning SexEd 202 Commission.
SexEd 101 is geared toward youth (ages 8-18 years). Similar to SexEd 202, SexEd 101 has a commission component. Due to the age of the target audience and challenging nature of in-school and youth-centered collaborations, the artists and art collectives for SexEd 101 will not apply by open call, but will be nominated and invited to apply for the commission by the SexEd curatorial committee.
Selected artists/collectives will be provided with: a list of topics with suggested appropriate age groups (i.e., safe sex practices/prevention of sexually transmitted diseases: 16-18 years); the names of partnering organizations to serve as collaborators and resources of sexual health information, statistics, etc.; and schools and community centers willing to partner artists with the young people who are part of their institutions.
Selected artists/groups will have up to 6 months to develop, facilitate and document their projects with the partnering organizations and school/community groups. Project documentation will be reviewed with the commissioned groups and developed into curriculum by the Curriculum Advisory team. Projects will be presented in a comprehensive exhibition (final sex education school session) to launch the SexEd 101 publication.
Partners + Advisors
Partnering organizations steeped in the field of sex education will provide the artists and collectives with the most current and factual information regarding sexual practices, appropriate curriculum for sex education and effective methods for teaching and learning about sex. These groups can also inform the conversation SexEd 101 and SexEd 202 will be facilitating with the larger issues, stigmas, and laws surrounding sexual education in the U.S. These partners, in combination with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will enable a holistic and well-rounded process in the development of a new and innovative federal sex education curriculum.
Liz Slagus consults in the areas of art and technology education, public programming and community engagement. In 2009, the State Library of Queensland awarded her the Creative Fellowship for Art & Technology to develop the programming and outreach strategy for Brisbane’s new digital culture centre. During 2008, she produced the youth component for the 01SJ Biennial (San Jose, CA), and co-curated “1800 Frames” for City Without Walls (Newark, NJ)—beginning a curatorial partnership with Norene Leddy. Between 1999-2009, Liz developed and managed Eyebeam’s education programs, exploring new teaching and learning techniques and models for engagement. As Director of Education and Public Programming, she co-curated and oversaw large-scale exhibitions, and Eyebeam’s public presentations. Liz continues to lecture about arts education, production and collaboration. She holds a BA in Art History and Anthropology from Bucknell University and an MA in Visual Arts Administration from NYU.
Norene Leddy’s work examines how technology is used in relationship to marginalized populations. Recent projects include working with sex workers and inner-city girls to explore ways that high and low technology can be used for protection and self expression, from the latest in GPS and mobile software to simple DIY kits made up of electronics from Radio Shack. In addition to drawing, video, sculpture and installation; related performances and workshops are frequently part of her artistic practice. Her work has been shown in the US, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Georgia, India, Italy and Norway. She has been the recipient of numerous grants, awards and residencies, including a Fulbright Fellowship and two Eyebeam residencies. Norene earned a M.F.A. from Parsons School of Design in 2000, and currently teaches at Parsons in AMT and SDS. In 2008, Norene started an ongoing curatorial collaboration with Liz Slagus. Together they have curated exhibitions for City Without Walls, Kean University, and Gallery Aferro.