Nick Azzaro's 'Simple Math, Too' exhibit examines challenging discussions in public schools
September 29, 2023
Stamps alum, sculptor, installation artist, and former public school teacher Nick Azzaro’s (BFA ’04, MFA ’22) virtual exhibition, “Simple Math, Too,” in partnership with CultureVerse and with support from the Stamps School of Art & Design, is now viewable at nickazzaro.xyz/simple-math-too. The exhibit of three pieces, “Educution,” “Re-Reversing Reversed Reverse Racism,” and the “Dumb-Dumb Desk and Corresponding Dunce Cap” in their own respective classrooms speak to the challenging but necessary discussions regarding the current state of public education. Using materials that are historically available in under-resourced schools and classrooms, Azzaro supersedes the burdens of working within public school systems with provocative imagery. The exhibit offers audio and written descriptors as part of its virtual experience for ease and accessibility. Appointments are available by request through the end of October.
Azzaro started his career with Ypsilanti youth, leading after-school programs for Bright Futures from 2013 to 2020. His dedication continued at Ypsilanti Community High School, where he built a pilot photography program. His students created visually-charged photos on social justice issues, including immigration, race, and class, and went on to win countywide and national awards. Ypsilanti Community Schools entered its tenth year this Fall 2023, the result of two former fiscally failing school districts, Ypsilanti Public Schools and Willow Run Community Schools.
Azzaro says that his exhibition comes at a time “when many states are taking extreme measures to silence such discussions in public schools while simultaneously promoting ‘white-washed’ alternatives.’ ” He cites Florida’s outlaw of AP African American Studies, Iowa’s reassignment of public school funds, Kentucky’s SB1 limitations of identity and orientation discussions, and the Virginia governor’s executive order regarding Critical Race Theory as catalysts for the work.
“Meeting students where they are is the first step towards highly effective teaching. Denying them who they know they are or that their life experience is not attached to who they are is archaic and harmful,” says Azzaro.
CultureVerse is an Ann Arbor, Michigan, based 501(c)(3) non-profit that uses emerging technologies to amplify the work of artists, educators, and preservationists. CultureVerse makes unseen and hard-to-reach artwork like this accessible to the public using technology. CultureVerse has completed over 50 projects in the last two years, elevating the work of our partners and enriching the community.