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USA Today to Feature Mawia Elawad, Art Force 5

Mawia Elawad will be featured in USA Today

Mawia Elawad will be featured in USA Today

Alfred University student Mawia Elawad will be featured in USA Today’s “I Am an American” series as a representative of Art Force 5, the Alfred University student group formed in 2006 as part of the university’s Drawn to Diversity program.

Elawad was interviewed recently in Rochester by The Democrat and Chronicle, which will present her work with Art Force 5 in both print and video media, scheduled for release on Jan. 15. Both the video and article will be posted on the USA Today website, and Alfred University ENews will provide a link to both posts.

Art Force 5 recently won the Unite Rochester Challenge, sponsored by The Democrat and Chronicle, as a project to draw constructive input from the Rochester community in response to chronic racial and socio-economic conflicts within the city. The award includes a $5,000 contribution to fund the group’s work in Rochester’s inner city neighborhoods.

The five Art Force 5 volunteers used a combination of street smarts and their Alfred University education to encourage Rochester residents to paint individual ceramic tiles that then became nine large mosaics, each mosaic consisting of 361 tiles. The mosaics represent themes ranging from poverty to violence to homelessness. They were assembled after the Art Force 5 students visited more than 40 sites in the city, including schools, camps, nursing homes, construction sites, street corners and athletic fields. To visually punctuate their project, the Art Force 5 team traveled from site to site using a four-wheeled go-kart (called the “Go-Art-Go-Kart”), which also transported the art supplies.

While the USA Today installment will focus on Mawia, Alfred University’s Dan Napolitano notes Art Force 5 also includes students Hakiere Parker, Joyce Parker, DeAndre Vaden, Sade Moten and Noah Mitchell. With the exception of Mitchell, all Art Force 5 volunteers grew up in Rochester and attended Rochester city schools.

For Elawad, the experience was partly a tour of her adopted hometown. She moved to Rochester when she was 10 with her mother, father and brother, after the family emigrated from Sudan to Egypt before making the journey to the U.S. She says she used her own knowledge of the city to connect Art Force 5 coordinator Dan Napolitano with key constituencies and organizations in the city.

“With me growing up in Rochester, I had some connections and knew some agencies that could really expand our opportunities. I just helped Dan reach out to people and make those connections. And the connections led to a lot of our conversations.”

Elawad is a fourth-year student at Alfred University, majoring in Communications Studies and minoring in Spanish. She expects to graduate in December 2017.

In winning the Democrat and Chronicle’s Unite Rochester Challenge, she and the other Art Force 5 members competed initially against 88 other entries, out of which ten final projects were chosen. The Alfred University team was formally recognized winner of the competition in a February 2016 ceremony at the Hochstein School of Music & Dance, in Rochester.

To clinch the victory, Art Force 5 students partnered not only with Rochester agencies and not-for-profit agencies, but also city police who joined the students as they traveled around the city, often visiting  residents in a door-to-door campaign.

Napolitano notes Art Force 5 has created projects for the University of Oklahoma; the Madam Walker Theater, in Indianapolis; University of Notre Dame, and a recent salute to renowned illustrator Stan Lee at the New York Comic Con conference. While the group has developed a variety of projects to encourage community response, Napolitano says the mosaic tile project, in which residents paint 2” by 2” inch tiles that form the larger mosaic, has become the most popular.

For more information on Art Force 5 and its umbrella program, Drawn to Diversity, visit: