Parsons Students Withdraw From BFA Exhibition As They Pressure New School To Divest

A group of fine arts students at Parsons School of Design has withdrawn artwork from their BFA thesis exhibition amid an ongoing strike to pressure the New School to divest from companies connected to Israeli military interests.

In lieu of the official exhibition, the students are staging an alternative show titled Seeds of Solidarity opening tonight, May 17, in Brooklyn. The exhibition marks the culmination of students’ year-long BFA thesis projects as well as weeks of student-led protests at the New York institution, where Gaza solidarity encampments and building occupations were met with mass police arrests and academic suspension earlier this month. 

While the rest of their 63-person cohort exhibited artwork earlier this week at the BFA Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition on campus, 12 students — Andrea Aziz, Anna Bluhdorn, Eli Carbonneau, Priscila Castillo, Denisse Damken, Katherine Hong, Minnie Marin Lopez, aj medeiros, Mahayla Meyer, Mumtahina Nabila, Brooke Randle Azpeitia, and Yuhan Shen — have instead chosen to display their year-long thesis projects at Boshi’s Place, an events space located at 1002 Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg.

Opening of the Seeds of Solidarity exhibition (photo Maya Pontone/Hyperallergic)
Works by Brooke Randle Azpeitia and Andrea Aziz (photo Maya Pontone/Hyperallergic)

Seeds of Solidarity was organized to support Students for Justice in Palestine’s ongoing general strike and boycott against the New School, which calls for no entry to the school’s premises or “use of school facilities for academic or labor purposes.” It comes as graduation commencements around the country have been transformed into platforms for protest against Israel’s ongoing hostilities in Gaza, where no universities have been left unscathed. Since Hamas’s October 7 attacks, the Israeli military has killed more than 35,233 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the latest report from the United Nations.

The New School has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

Mahayla Meyer, a dual fine arts and liberal arts major at Parsons who withdrew from the on-campus BFA exhibition, explained that Seeds of Solidarity resulted from students’ discomfort crossing the general strike’s picket line. The 12 participants have been installing their work at the Brooklyn venue since Wednesday. 

“This is a group of students who did not feel comfortable not just going to their studios or being on the campus, but inviting in media, friends, family, and large groups of people to the New School for a thesis show that would allow the university to use us as a celebration in a moment of struggle,” Meyer told Hyperallergic

Shane Aslan Selzer, a part-time assistant professor who teaches the Senior Thesis Fine Arts Studio course and has been involved in the faculty protests for Palestine, told Hyperallergic that she was very excited by the alternative exhibition.

“The students felt really strongly that they couldn’t participate [in the on-campus show] and they were really clear about that,” Seltzer said, adding that the group “also didn’t want to alienate their peers who still wanted to participate.”

“I think the students really understand that everyone has to contribute and resist in their own way and that there are multiple entry points and ways to do that work,” Seltzer said, explaining that the exhibition is not about shaming other students but about grounding their own artwork in a global context.

Visitors with Yuhan Shen’s installation “Untitled” (2024)
Denisse Damken with their installation
The gallery where students, family members and friends gathered to view the 12 thesis projects
Work by Andrea Aziz

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