Be Your Own, an event run by the Center for Gender Equity, is providing four creation spaces on campus throughout February for students, faculty and staff to embrace their identities and promote love and acceptance through art.
The event focuses on the themes of mental health and self care, sexuality and sexual identity, and gender-based violence. The goal is to help people heal from traumas or hardships by reclaiming and defining themselves.
Students and faculty are encouraged to create artwork to communicate their messages to each other and form a closer community on campus.
“One focus is self-care over all of our themes,” event organizer Emily Ryan, ’18, said. “We want people to walk away loving it and also knowing that whatever art they create, first and foremost, should be important to them. We’re not here to tell you what to create or how to create it, we just want you to have a great time doing it and then loving whatever it is that you walk away with.”
Ryan said the event was introduced last year to emphasize sexuality and sexual identity. She said it was invite-only and approximately 10 people attended.
Ryan and co-organizer Madison Williams, ’18, created art at last year’s event and had such a great experience that they wanted to arrange a larger event.
“Honestly, our goal was mostly to start,” Ryan said. “Once we got started, we’re just trying to keep on top of it, have our art supplies ready, continuously try to get people to hear about it and interested in coming.”
Ryan said she and Williams reached out to different organizations on campus to try to gain more attention and increase turnout.
Williams said the Center for Gender Equity staff chose themes for Be Your Own they thought were relevant on campus and could reach a wide audience.
“What’s happening in the political environment today in our country, things happening in Hollywood…we felt that we wanted to provide a space for people to reflect on it and be able to have that outlet on campus,” she said. “In years coming, we’re hoping this is an annual event and these themes can change. They can stay, or they can adapt and change with the campus as the needs change.”
Williams and Ryan said they recognized the topics and themes were sensitive and personal. Ryan said the main purpose of the event was to welcome students, faculty and staff to take time out of their busy schedules to be alone and self reflect in a peaceful setting.
The first creation space was a VIP session in Lamberton Hall on Feb. 12. Williams said student groups, faculty and staff gave suggestions and feedback about upcoming events and what people would be interested in.
Those who attend the open creative spaces have access to an assortment of materials — including charcoal, glitter, beads, yarn, pastels, paints, tissue paper, fabrics, glue and dried leaves and flowers — while listening to music. The center also provides food and beverages.
Graduate student Devika Gupta attended the first open creation event on Feb. 15 with her friend Komal Grover, ’20, who convinced her to come paint and make art.
Gupta said she thought about the theme of mental health and how the event could help her release some stress through art. Grover said she thought people who participated felt safe to express themselves.
“(Be Your Own) really helped people bring their creativity and make something that means a lot to them,” she said.
There was a Be Your Own art creation event for faculty and staff only on Monday. Williams said this allowed them to create art privately without the presence of students, which might make some uncomfortable because of the sensitive topics.
Williams said participants can choose to donate their artwork anonymously or with their name. All of the pieces will be displayed in a gallery reception in E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library from March to August. Williams said participants who donate their art will get it back eventually, but those who choose not to can take their artwork home after they make it.
There will be another open session this Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in the Global Commons.