Dan Napolitano (Alfred University BFA, M.Ed) is grateful to be able to recruit art superheroes, not only from Alfred University but from art and non-art programs throughout the SUNY system. The Art Force 5 program has been described as community-based art superheroes promoting “creativity over conflict.”
How would you describe your own artistic practice?
I consider myself an artist, educator, and activist. Our practice is site-specific, often sculptural with a painting component. It is collaborative both in design and delivery, always emphasizing the process over any final product. We also use the term “infiltration art” in slowly gaining trust within sometimes challenging professions to break down perceived barriers such as bias and oppression.
How did attending art school prepare you for this profession?
I paired my BFA with an education certification and then pursued a Masters in College Student Development with a focus on African-, Latin-, Asian-, and Native-American Affairs. An art degree helps you enter any career path with a creative lens, offering you skills that are truly outside of ordinary. My current position as Assistant Dean at Alfred U allows me the opportunity to use my creative approach to fostering college student development.
Could you give a specific example of you work?
In 2019, we partnered with the NFL to bring together some active players, a police department, and a youth organization to build a mosaic tribute to Atlanta’s first Black police force of 1948. Participants would sit together and each paint one predetermined tile in the mosaic. There is a certain vulnerability in sitting and making art which allows those communities to interact in an honest way. In 2020, after gaining trust from the NFL, we began creating and wearing football replica jerseys with female empowerment icons – an interesting juxtaposition of the current sports climate’s male dominance.
Who are the Art Force 5?
We use this theme of superheroes because it is widely familiar to most and allows us access to places that might be resistant to welcome outreach labeled diversity or social justice. The team is culled from dozens of trained students at Alfred University with five selected for each mission, each portraying a different art skill – the illustrator, the painter, the sculptor, the photographer, the designer.
And you recruit art students from other colleges?
Yes. Through a grant from SUNY (State University of New York) we have been able to build a summer internship program with students from other colleges. For two consecutive summers, we have built a youth program on NYC’s Governors Island where we host art activities while also launching educational efforts to the five boroughs of NYC.