Teacher Helps Change Young Lives Through Arts Education – UofSC News & Events

Olga Ivashkevich leads workshops for girls in the juvenile referee program



As an art educator, Olga Ivashkevich has long been interested in how girls express themselves through art.

When she arrived at the University of South Carolina in 2008 as a faculty member of the School of Visual Art and Design, she wanted to pursue her interest in girl’s studies, a subject which she had worked on as part of her thesis at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne.

“I was interested in seeing how girls make sense of their childhood and their identity through spontaneous artistic creation outside of school,” she says.

Her interests drew her to the Women’s and Gender Studies program, and she now leads the Women’s Well-Being Initiative, overseeing arts and digital media workshops for teenage girls as part of the program. Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration.

The workshops are part of a diversion program for middle school and high school girls who are on their first non-violent offense. The goal is to keep them out of the formal criminal justice system. Ivashkevich developed the workshop program, which uses art and digital media to promote engagement and discussion of everyday issues faced by girls and young women. Ivashkevich leads the program and UofSC students from various disciplines are trained to help teach the classes.

“There is always an artistic component. And the art-making component is focused on the idea of ​​feminist pedagogy and social change,” she says. “So basically art works as a tool to think about the obstacles you have in life as a girl, as a young woman.”

I was interested to see how girls make sense of their childhood and their identity through spontaneous artistic creation outside of school.

Olga Ivashkevich, School of Visual Art and Design

The program aims to provide tools for young women – who have had trouble with issues such as shoplifting, trespassing and underage drinking – so they can think about themselves in a way more positive and imagine their future in a different light.

“We usually start classes with a discussion about the things that make you feel small and insignificant, about the things that put you down. And they create an obstacle map, we call it a roadblock map. Girls say things like peer pressure. We say domestic violence. They talk about family issues. Or someone in the family is incarcerated. They share not having enough money,” she says. “And most of them are just typical teenagers who need guidance, who need a mentor, who need someone to talk to. And art is a wonderful vehicle to express, talk about the obstacles in his life and also to build a community.

The girls work on art that depicts social issues, addressing topics such as societal oppression, sexism, equity and discrimination against women.

Ivashkevich, who grew up in Belarus and moved to the United States for college, remains driven by the possibility of using art to make a difference in the lives of young people.

“It’s just so satisfying to watch these teenagers come in silently and locked up with so much baggage, and then watch them slowly open up – and not just to us adult facilitators, but to each other.” And to see them having these conversations and realizing that they’re not the only ones feeling this,” Ivashkevich says. “That’s why I keep doing it, because having this experience for myself is deeply satisfying.”


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Topics: Faculty, Academics, Experiential Learning, Initiatives, Service, Leadership, College of Arts and Sciences

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