Artist and activist Dara Greenwald ’93 passed away on January 9, 2012, after a courageous multi-year battle with cancer. Our condolences go out to all who knew Dara, including her community that originated here at Oberlin, her life partner Josh MacPhee ’96, and their families.
Dara was central in so many communities, and it seems that everyone who knew Dara knew her through more than one network. After graduating from Oberlin with a major in women’s studies and a minor in dance, she headed to Chicago, where she earned an MFA in writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She worked at the Video Data Bank from 1998 to 2005 and co-organized a number of radical initiatives during her Chicago years, including Pink Bloque, a "radical feminist dance troupe dedicated to challenging the white supremacist capitalist patriarchal empire one street dance party at a time," and Ladyfest Midwest, an ambitious arts festival celebrating the achievements of women. She then moved to Troy, New York, where she earned an MFA and worked toward a PhD in electronic arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. This is where I first met Dara in person, although her work certainly preceded her. Dara also served on the board at Deep Dish Television and was an ally to independent media centers nationwide. She worked extensively with her partner and collaborator Josh MacPhee, himself a prolific activist, artist, and writer. Recently, to great acclaim, they cocurated the monumental exhibit "Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures, 1960s to Now" that premiered at Exit Art in New York, and they wrote the book by the same name, published by AK Press in 2010.
Since Dara’s passing, it has been awe-inspiring to see all of the websites, videos, and pictures that have emerged in tribute to her life and work. Most pictures of Dara show her as I remember her, in the center of a group of people, perhaps with pen and clipboard in hand, or at a table serving enough food to feed a co-op, or dancing through a protest, or on stage with an all-girl rock band—always with a wink and a smile. One thing that stands out to me about Dara’s whip-smart mind is that she somehow seemed to know what everybody in the room was thinking. She had an incredible ability to comprehend the hive-mind, channeling it into art and action. This is perhaps why she connected with so many diverse networks throughout her life, mobilizing people everywhere she went.
Dara’s spirit sings brightly at this auspicious time, when people around the world are at unrest for a multiplicity of reasons, in diverse countries, cities, and parks.
The only way we can pay justice to her legacy is to heed her undying call to action. And so, dear Dara, in the name of justice and unity, we are still working—always with a wink and a smile.
Dara Greenwld, presente!
Assistant Professor of Integrated Media,