In fall 2020, the Walker Art Center and Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.) co-presented a residency with artist collective Studio K.O.S. Through workshops and a public event, the project foregrounded the group’s decades-long practice of collaborative pedagogy and its transformative social impact.
This distinctive collaboration emerged from A.R.T.’s celebration of Studio K.O.S. as the 2020 D.U.C. Library Program Honoree and Reading Resources, a series of digital teaching guides that build critical literacy through the arts. As a New York-based nonprofit, A.R.T. creates more egalitarian access to art and literacy through publishing, education, and the free distribution of books on contemporary art to public libraries, schools, and prisons. In addition to gifting 12,651 free books to 313 public libraries in Studio K.O.S.’s name, A.R.T. joined the Walker to connect educators, librarians, learners, and wider publics with the collective’s imaginative and impactful pedagogical methods.
Workshops introduced Twin Cities educators, librarians, and teens to Studio K.O.S.’s unique method of “Jamming,” which merges classroom and studio to produce artworks through shared readings of literary classics. The strategy was developed by Tim Rollins in the 1980s for students in the Art and Knowledge Workshop he led in a South Bronx public school that would later become the artist collective, Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival (K.O.S.). Several of the original members would continue and reimagine this collective practice after Rollins’ passing in 2018. Today, Studio K.O.S. consists of longstanding members Angel Abreu, Jorge Abreu, Robert Branch, and Rick Savinon. The residency’s workshops focused on Ralph Ellison’s milestone novel Invisible Man, a touchstone source throughout the group’s history that held new urgencies and resonances during 2020’s powerful struggles for racial justice. Educators can bring this method into their classrooms by using this facilitation guide, written by Walker Youth Programs Coordinator Simona Zappas.
During their virtual residency, Studio K.O.S. members also interviewed Attorney General Keith Ellison to discuss multi-generational community building, the impact of protesting, and the roles art and artists play in the fight for racial justice – a video transcript is available for viewing.
The project concluded with a public Post-Workshop Dialog in which Studio K.O.S. joined Nisa Mackie, Head of Public Engagement, Learning, and Impact at the Walker; and Wendy Tronrud, Associate Director of Teaching Programs at the Bard Prison Initiative and A.R.T. Education Consultant.
The ideas, conversations, and art-works generated by this rich collaborative process form the basis for the fifth-annual installment of A.R.T.’s digital teaching guide series, Reading Resources: Studio K.O.S., forthcoming in spring 2021. Expanding the “Jamming” methodology to a wider range of texts and topics, this digital teaching guide enables educators nationwide to activate the transformative potentials of art-making and critical literacy.