As artist, activist, organizer, writer, and educator, Jen Delos Reyes is leaving an immeasurable mark on a generation of socially engaged artists. As the founder of the Open Engagement conference, Jen spends her days and career equipping and connecting artists of all mediums with the tools of social change.
Despite her many roles including that of the associate director of a school of art & art history and director of the world’s largest conference on socially engaged art, she rarely calls herself an artist. Instead, her preferred title is “creative laborer,” and rightly so. With the tools of an activist, her practice is that of an educator, a writer, and an organizer, leading a movement of uncommon connection and an unencumbered imagination. You won’t typically find her work hanging on a gallery wall, but diffusing through pockets of society, transforming it from the inside out. In her life and work, Jen passionately supports the power of art to engage a society, moving from the canvas to the collective and reminding us artists and non-artists alike that we are all more powerful than we imagine.
Although her work is steeped in the world of higher education, Jen finds deep value in the informal and incidental forms our education often takes. “The most formative part of my education wasn’t actually art school. It was being a teenager in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the mid-90’s amidst the Riot Girl movement and the burgeoning music scene there. I was a band member. A zine maker. A show organizer. All of those skills that I learned then are translated into everything I do now. Even just working together in a group dynamic is informed by what it was like to work together in a band and make music and try to move forward together in one direction. If anything, everything I did during art school and throughout the early part of my career was just trying to get back to that feeling of what it was like to work with other people, do things in a group, and build community.”