Millena Cecilia Santos Albuquerque ’22C

Millena Cecilia Santos Albuquerque poses for a photo

Graphic Design Graduate Uses Art to Inspire Social Change

Millena Cecilia Santos Albuquerque ’22C views art as a force for change.

The 21-year-old from Harrison, NJ, believes she found a calling during her four years in the Graphic Design program in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Outfitted now with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a body of public work, Ms. Albuquerque looks forward to a meaningful future as an artist/advocate in the line of Banksy,Paula Champagne, and Deva Pardue. Her website features examples of her work as both a photographer and a graphic artist.

“I strongly believe in art as a force that brings people together,” Ms. Albuquerque said. “If there was a theme to my time at St. John’s, it would be coming of age. It leaves me nostalgic when I think of the person I was when I arrived, but confident and exhilarated when I think of the person I’m becoming.”

Ms. Albuquerque said the fine arts community at St. John’s is a small but enthusiastic group, eager to use artistic creativity as a form of social currency to challenge power structures rather than to merely describe them.

Take Ms. Albuquerque’s work with Freedom Agenda, for example. A project of the Urban Justice Center, Freedom Agenda works with communities impacted by incarceration. It believes in defending the rights of incarcerated people, reforming systems of punishment, and redistributing resources to people and communities impacted by the criminal justice system.     

“Working with Freedom Agenda has shown me the importance of advocating for the rights of those who have been silenced and perpetually marginalized,” Ms. Albuquerque said. A member of the LGBTQIA+ community while at the University, she interned at the Queer Design Club, a global network and safe space for LGBTQIA+ artists, designing social media assets to grow the organization’s brand.

So good was Ms. Albuquerque that the online creative network Bēhance featured several of their designs for an e-zine that highlights the work of LGBTQIA+ artists. Ms. Albuquerque’s project, called Tender, has netted nearly 11,000 views and 1,100 likes.

“I’ve made it my personal mission to utilize my platform to amplify the voices and works of the LGBTQIA+ community,” she said.    

While at St. John’s, Ms. Albuquerque also interned at The Shark Group, the marketing and consulting firm of Shark Tank star Daymond John. Shark Group encourages creativity, which she appreciated.

“They taught me different things, but they were both life-changing experiences,” Ms. Albuquerque said. “At The Shark Group, I learned so much about working in a corporate structure, and how to be quicker and more versatile as a designer. Queer Design Club showcased for me how to utilize design as a tool for change—a tool that I can use to help folks in my own community.”

Ms. Albuquerque’s next stop is Manhattan’s The Public Theater, founded by legendary Broadway producer Joe Papp 60 years ago as one of the nation’s first nonprofit theaters. She has been working there as a part-time graphic designer for several months and is now transitioning to a full-time position.

Despite working full time, Ms. Albuquerque doesn’t plan to slow down her community aid commitments. “I plan to continue to learn and grow as well as further my community organizing and mutual aid efforts across New York City,” she vowed. “These years at St. John’s have taught me that my voice matters.”