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"JUST US” Program Connects Arts and Resiliency (


UNCW has partnered with local school and community groups on a pilot program that uses art integration to help students develop resiliency skills. WCE professor Janna Robertson wrote the curriculum for “JUST US” in collaboration with WCE students Schala Harper and Kia Thompson as well as artist, Dare Coulter. The interdisciplinary curriculum incorporates North Carolina middle school standards for social emotional learning, language arts, social studies and visual arts.

The program was recently implemented at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, Brigade Boys and Girls Club, DREAMS of Wilmington, GLOW Academy, Myrtle Grove Middle School and Trask Middle School.

After being introduced to the Community Resiliency Model, students learned all about Dare Coulter’s “Because It’s Time” monument featuring the Black history of resilience in Wilmington. Coulter, a Raleigh-based artist, was commissioned to create the social justice sculpture for UNCW as part of a new “Artivism” initiative through the UNCW Office of the Arts.

Students then completed monuments to reflect their own resilience stories and recorded an art talk describing their artwork. The culmination of the project is a public exhibit of student art at the Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum April 1-18. A tour of the exhibit can be viewed here and an online exhibit featuring each student’s art and art talk can be viewed in an Art Gallery on the JUST US pilot website.

“Students’ lives are complicated, and they can feel overwhelmed by circumstances that now include a pandemic and a social justice crisis,” Robertson said. “At the beginning of the program, students were asked what superpowers they have. By the end, they realized they have several superpowers, including their own resiliency skills. Having students tell their own resilience stories in a creative way is very self-affirming. Very powerful. And it can be transformative.”

Kimberley Cheatham in UNCW’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion initiated JUST US in collaboration with UNCW’s Office of the Arts. Local partners in addition to Robertson and the six pilot locations include the Harrelson Center, the CAM, the New Hanover County Resiliency Task Force, the UNCW Restorative Justice Collaboration, Girls Rocking It in the South, Turning the Wheel and Working Narratives.

The curriculum for the pilot can be viewed on the JUST US: Because It’s Time website. The final curriculum will be available by Fall 2021. Future JUST US projects may involve dance, music, poetry, creative writing, or other arts, paired with other social justice artists, and a focus on different cultures.

UNCW announced the JUST US program in a home page story on March 25: UNCW Partners with Community Groups for “JUST US” Program Connecting Arts and Resiliency.

Media Coverage of the Exhibit

Port City Daily, April 2: Creating resiliency: Pilot program combines art, Black culture and emotional strength, culminates in student exhibit at CAM.

Artivism for Social Change

The JUST US pilot program was created as part of UNCW’s new initiative Artivism for Social Change, the program that also commissioned Date Coulter’s monument “Because It’s Time.”  UNCW’s Office of the Arts has curated Artivism for Social Change, a collaborative series of arts events and programs, to help create a culturally healthy campus through interactive, immersive artistic experiences. The series draws its name from the combination “arts” and “activism,” reflecting an intentional effort to inspire discussion among members of the campus and the community.

Campus and community partners involved in the Artivism initiative include students and faculty in the Department of Art and Art History and Department of Theatre; K-12 students from participating schools in New Hanover County; faculty in the Watson College of Education, regional artists; the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the College of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Community Engagement and Applied Learning.

UNCW announced the news in a home page story on February 25: UNCW Office of the Arts Launches “Artivism for Social Change” Series.

To learn more about Artivism for Social Change, visit

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