It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the question, “What do we do amidst social unrest?”

With so many ways to contribute to change, UC Santa Cruz promotes its Social Documentation Master of Fine Arts program (SocDoc) as a space that allows students to recount and reshape history with more than just words. There, social change is catalyzed via a plethora of mediums and displays.

Since 1968, the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery in Porter College has emphasized this urgency through their continuing collaboration with emerging student artists. 

Sesnon’s multiple month Gallery, Frames Per Second, will take on social change through audiovisual documentation. It is a biweekly rotating showcase of 20 minute films created by graduate students in SocDoc. Established in 2005, the program supports students with interest in film and digital media that promotes critical community-based thought. 

Louise Leong, the Sesnon Gallery manager and preparator since 2019, reflects on the effect of holding Frames Per Second within Sesnon.

“We are elevating narratives for communities that are very personal,” Leong said. “This allows an entry point for people to engage with larger issues.”

The showcase is represented by graduate students: Ruth Anne Beutler, Ernie A. Calderón, Jordan Freeman, Chisa Hughes, Lara Saab, Hoda Sobhani, and Oana Tenter. The first three students have already showcased their work, but the films are still available for viewing in the gallery. The next film shown will be Chisa Hughes’ film, Many Moons, presented from now until Nov. 12. 

Many Moons is a documentary following the expulsion of Chinese people in Humboldt County who experience threats of white violence. The story is conveyed through real documented accounts acted by people who had an affinity to those stories. 

The event’s inspiration stems from last fall’s “Sesnon Salons”, which encompassed the collaboration between the gallery and other arts related programs such as Film and Digital Media. When the Film and Digital Media cohort held their presentation in spring, Leong recognized the distance between the departments. Frames Per Second bridges that gap, with an emphasis on telling the stories of marginalized groups, cultures, and issues.

It takes two years to complete the program, during which students work with Film and Digital Media mentors. Frames Per Second will be showcasing work from the 2020 cohort due to COVID complications. 

Chisa Hughes reflects on the past few years as a student in the program and as an individual in the world.

“It’s important to create a link between the present and past through relationships with actual individuals from the past,” Hughes said. “It’s a space to imagine the self, into the future in ways that are empowering, not just rehearsing traumas.”

Hughes will also be a part of the diaristic storytelling panel with their peers Hoda Sobhani and Oana Tenter, in which the filmmakers will go into more depth about their relationship to the films and associated social movements.

Exciting plans are to follow as the gallery looks for a new program director, new employees, and plans for a new local gallery, the Sesnon Gallery continues to forge an artistic environment where social change has many avenues and possibilities.

Beatriz Juarez, an employee of the Sesnon Gallery and leader of the Underground Gallery, emphasizes the gallery’s impact on the school’s environment as a whole.

Porter College’s Underground Gallery is a student-run space for students to submit artwork of their own. Its proposal based approval and funding can be allotted as well. More information can be found at

“We want to be a space for discourse, listening, learning, and hopefully growing,” said Juarez. “We want this to be a really safe space.”

This article was part of a CHP backlog, it was originally written during the week of Oct. 31.

The 15th annual full screening of the 2020-2021 SocDoc cohort will take place at the Del Mar Theater in downtown Santa Cruz, on Nov. 9 from 7-10 p.m. The exhibition, panel, and screenings are free and open to the public.