Molly Hurley Speaks to Students about Art, Politics, and Social Change

HumanitiesX
4 min readMay 31, 2022

By Yessica Pineda

Molly Hurley visits the “Geographies of Displacement” course last month. (Justyna Lepa / Ashley Haupt)

Molly Hurley is an inspiration to many young artists, myself included. Born in China and adopted by a family in rural Missouri, Hurley constantly struggled to negotiate her identity and culture. Early on, she perceived art as both an expression of self and a way to collaborate, converse, and act within a community.

Though art was a large part of her life at a young age, Hurley decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Rice University in Houston, Texas. Through this field, she discovered a curiosity about nuclear weapons, an interest she explored further through a fellowship at an organization called Beyond the Bomb. As a result of her work with Beyond the Bomb–a grassroots organization that seeks to put an end to nuclear violence through local, state, and national activism–Hurley began to view atomic bombing as more than a national security or foreign policy issue. Rather, she began to view it through a social justice lens.

Inspired by the policy and activism of the organization, Hurley developed an interest in pursuing a master’s in political science. However, upon extended reflection, she realized that she could combine her passion for policy and activism through art. Today, Hurley is pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts in Community Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. With a concentration in Illustration, Hurley seeks to uplift communities of color through her art. She sees art as a safe space, one that allows communities to process and express emotions toward achieving greater safety and fulfillment.

“I always think about how before, I was a pre-med student and now I’m in art school,” Hurley said.

Hurley visited with students at DePaul University on May 5, 2022. Her visit was coordinated by Dr. Kerry Ross and Dr. Yuki Miyamoto, professors of history and religious studies respectively, as part of their new HumanitiesX (HX) class Geographies of Displacement: Migration and Immigration in Atomic-Age Art.

As one of two HX Student Fellows assigned to help with the course, I felt fortunate to be there. Being a Political Science major with a double minor in art and marketing, I deeply related to Hurley’s background and story.

As a child, I too had a passion for art. Whether I was sketching on the corner of my notebook during class or designing my poster board for a class presentation, my creative mind was always at work. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, the elementary school that I attended did not have the funds to offer their students an art program. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I was able to take my first art class where, with the support of my teachers, I discovered the power of art.

As with Hurley, art became for me both an outlet and voice. Through art, I began to explore my identity within my community as a first-generation Latina and discovered issues such as immigration, separation of families, and racism, which led me to pursue Political Science in college with a hope of one day becoming an immigration lawyer.

Growing up, I was discouraged from pursuing art by family and school teachers. I was told that the field would not make me any money and that I would most likely end up being a “starving artist”. Hurley’s visit quieted those negative comments, which I’d long carried with me in my head. Hearing the testimony of such a successful first-generation woman around my age, I was instantly inspired to further develop my passion for art. Hurley was a huge inspiration to me. In the future, I hope to be an inspiration to a student like myself.

Yessica Pineda is a 2021–22 Student Fellow with HumanitiesX.

About Beyond the Bomb: https://beyondthebomb.org/our-plan/about-us/

About Molly Hurley: https://mollyhurley.com

Stills provided by Justyna Lepa and Ashley Haupt. Artwork provided by Molly Hurley.

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HumanitiesX

DePaul University’s Experiential Humanities Collaborative