I attended Wilmington Friends School for 14 years, and by all accounts, I consider myself a “lifer.” WFS provided the bulk of my educational experience, which was the basis for my development as an artist and an activist. Throughout my attendance at Friends, certain core values such as integrity, community, equality, peace, stewardship, and simplicity were foundational.
My name is Alex Rudin. I am a NYC based multimedia artist and illustrator. My work focuses primarily on social justice and abstract political theory. In 2019 I founded my creative studio Rudin Studios, LLC. The majority of my work attempts to comment on the complexities of the human experience through stylized portraiture and anecdotal commentary. My work seeks to uncover and express the truths about living in modern America. Currently, I am creating work to help galvanize action around social and political issues. In addition, I have spent the past few months developing a curriculum on the intersection of art and social justice: a program on unity, aesthetic force, and the importance of incorporating DEI work into art activism. I have partnered with organizations such as Women for Biden Harris 2020, Women for the Win, Friends Vote Together, Sam & Devorah Foundation for Trans Youth, Article 3, and Her Bold Move among others. My work has been featured in publications such as Grit Daily, NYOTA Magazine, yahoo!, The Female Lead and USA Today Magazine. My fine arts work has appeared in exhibitions in New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
I attended Wilmington Friends School for 14 years, and by all accounts, I consider myself a “lifer.” WFS provided the bulk of my educational experience, which was the basis for my development as an artist and an activist. Throughout my attendance at Friends, certain core values such as integrity, community, equality, peace, stewardship, and simplicity were foundational. After coming into my own as a humanitarian artist, the correlation between my work and my education at Friends became ever more apparent. My strict focus on working within the human rights and progressive political space has enabled me to reflect on my time at Friends with the utmost appreciation and regard. While the seeds were planted many years ago, the fruits of my Quaker education aid me regularly in committing myself to humanitarian work.
Pushing against inequality is elemental to the Quaker tradition. Since the arrival of Quakerism in the United States, Friends have fought to protect Native American rights, sought to abolish slavery, and to advance women’s rights. In 1776, as the Founding Fathers birthed the great American Experiment, Quakers prohibited the ownership of slaves. Fourteen years later, they petitioned the U.S. Congress for the abolition of slavery. This fight would continue for nearly 100 years. Additionally, Quaker involvement in the movement of women’s rights was tremendously significant. From the outset, Quaker views on gender equality were remarkably progressive, and by the 19th century, many Friends were involved in the movement. One of the earliest suffragettes was a Quaker minister named Lucretia Mott. She set about establishing women’s abolitionist societies across the country, ultimately becoming the first president of the American Equal Rights Association post-Civil War. Other prominent Quaker suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul are widely recognized for helping to deliver the vote for women in the United States in 1920. Both women have broadly attributed their activism to their Quaker upbringing. The belief that all humans are worthy of respect and should be treated as such is central to Quaker ideology. That being said, I find myself pulled to address the violence and injustice in our country during this tumultuous and transformative age. Art is my tool and I firmly believe that creatives have a duty to reflect the times we live in. My purpose is to create dialogue, promote actionable change, and to spark personal introspection and growth, much in the light of the core Quaker principle “Faith in Action.”
My attendance at WFS has been crucial in guiding my subject matter. It is commonplace for artists to struggle with “what to make.” I feel fortunate enough to rarely come across such issues. I attribute this mainly to my Friends school education and the sensitivity WFS enabled me to develop. When Coronavirus hit, my mission instantaneously crystalized. I was in an unfamiliar town, without the ability to work (silkscreen), miles away from the studio I call home. I remained glued to the news awestruck by the infection and mortality rates. I racked my brain for something to do, how to help, what to make. I wanted to figure out how to “let my life preach,” and be actionable in doing so.
I became focused on those who were not as privileged as me. I wanted to help those who were struggling to find housing, to feed themselves, to protect themselves from this deadly virus which was clearly and disproportionately hurting people of color. I began working on a series of pieces to be sold, 100% of the proceeds going to homeless and trafficked youth in NYC. Soon to follow were the atrocious murders of George Floyd, Ahmed Aubry, and Breonna Taylor, which brought racial justice to the forefront of the American conscience once again. While President Trump continuously fanned the flames of racism, the cries for equality and allyship were deafening. I felt as if It were time to allow my artwork to reflect the times and struggles of our country. Returning to my Quaker values, I wanted to help acknowledge, reflect, and aid in the effort to correct institutional racism that is so insidiously intertwined with our institutions and the American way of being. It was time to let my education at WFS take the driver's seat.
I have always been a very creative person. Art is my true north, and this was undoubtedly cultivated in many ways at WFS. My earliest and fondest memories at WFS were in Teal Rickerman’s art class. Ms. Rickerman helped instill a deep and unconscious sense of confidence and self-efficacy, in regards to my talents as an artist. I felt supported, encouraged, and special, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. I was also privileged enough to be a part of the IB Art program, which paved the way for me to attend Parsons New School for Design.
I faced many challenges in my creative experience at WFS starting in Middle School. There were moments where I felt my creative talents made me a target. I felt different than other students, as if I were an outsider. While the culture favored athleticism and academic achievement, being an academic creative was less the norm. The resulting isolation in conjunction with constant sources of support and encouragement led me to view my talents as something that made me special. Additionally, being creative became a valuable outlet emotionally. While some of my experiences at WFS were not exactly ideal, I would say that they were constructive and critical in making me the artist that I am. Most negatives have become positives, and for that I am thankful. I strongly believe that the challenges and accomplishments I faced at Friends both socially and creatively remain critical pieces of my puzzle, and I am grateful for every experience during my 14 years at WFS.
As I continue to create work for and with social justice activists, I am reminded every day of my education. I reflect upon the teachings of peace class and meaning for worship. I refer to my conflict resolution skills on a daily basis. I remember the guiding principles of a Friends education as they continuously shape and mold my present. I look up to the activist titans that attribute their work to Quaker values for inspiration. The core values of Quakerism in conjunction with the concept of Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) are intrinsic to who I am. While I happen to be Jewish and not Quaker, a large part of my soul belongs to the Quaker tradition. My whole self belongs to the practice of making art, thus inevitably, the two were bound to intersect. Throughout my journey as an artist, I have never felt more genuine than when I am making work that reflects my educational values. Friends instilled the ethics, desire, and self-efficacy required to make humanitarian artwork in an attempt to change the status quo. For this, I will always thank Wilmington Friends School.