Artist, activist selected for inaugural Corcoran professorship

Mel Chin will be the first William Wilson Corcoran Visiting Professor of Community Engagement, according to a University release.

The trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art fund this three-year professorship, and the person selected seeks to “drive social change at the local level,” according to the release.

Sanjit Sethi, the director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, said in the release that Chin embodies the qualities that Corcoran faculty and students embrace, like creativity and innovation.

“Mel is a passionate, creative practitioner who is dedicated to addressing some of the most pressing issues of our times, and I know he will be an invaluable resource to the students at the Corcoran and to the broader D.C. community,” Sethi said. “This visiting professorship allows the Corcoran to bring exciting individuals that are committed to the role creativity plays in addressing complex issues.”

Chin has shown artwork in exhibitions in the District, Minneapolis and Houston throughout his 40-year career.

Chin will teach classes and work with students and faculty to launch a community engagement project. He will also expand “Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project,” a creative campaign to prompt public engagement and action about childhood lead poisoning.

The artists involved in the project create “Fundreds,” hand-crafted symbolic $100 bills to “represent the public voice speaking out against the problem of lead poisoning to those with the power to end it,” according to the release. Chin started project after witnessing the effects of lead poisoning on residents in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“Our project is not so much about the soil in New Orleans, or the houses in Detroit, or the relationship between lead and criminal activity that they discovered in Cincinnati,” Chin said. “It’s about the value of human beings who are burdened by something that was no fault of their own.”

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