Diversity Through Art

Delve into cultures at the new art exhibit on campus

Campus Life > Diversity Through Art
Diversity Through Art

Artwork expressing thoughts on society

Amanda Petty

How do some people work through their thoughts, feelings, frustrations, centered around societal issues and self-identification? By working with various materials to project their inner monologues on a visual platform. Art. 

The Human Rights Institute is hosting the art exhibit "I Learn America: Explorations into Diversity, Identity and Inclusion." The exhibit will run all semester from Tuesday, January 31, 2017 through Friday, May, 12, 2017 in the Human Rights Institute Gallery, which is located on the first floor of the Nancy Thompson Library.

An opening reception was held on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with featured artists in attendance to discuss the exhibit with attendees. More than 250 people came out that night for the unveiling of the exhibit.

"I was able to build a collaborative relationship with Dr. Joe Amorino, and this is our second successful joint art exhibition in two years," said Janice Kroposky, director of Holocaust Resource Center. "Working together, we have helped educators learn strategies to infuse social justice issues into their classroom through the creation of artist expression."

The exhibit was inspired by the documentary of the same name. The documentary followed five immigrant and first-generation American teenagers over the course of a school year. Featured in the documentary was International High School, a New York City public school that has over 24 languages spoken by students from 50 countries.

Transforming the theme of the documentary into art, "The 'I Learn America' exhibit [is] to allow students to express their diversity and individuality by sharing their personal narratives through the creation of art," Kroposky said.

As stated on the documentary's website, "Our classrooms are meeting a growing influx of students who speak little to no English, who are unfamiliar with American culture..." One's culture may contrast what another person is familiar with, but at day's end, people can benefit from the diverse perspectives offered.

The hope of the "I Learn America" exhibit is to generate discussions on topics that are not deeply explored. Kean University's "I Learn America" allows individuals to encounter the multitude of diversity that exists today and eradicate the stereotypes that stifle society.

Artwork featured are from students and professors within Kean University, other collegiate institutions and from the high school level, with 17 schools in participation. The forms of art in the exhibit range from paintings to drawings to sculptures.

"We hope the exhibition with it's varying voices will allow for open conversation through the creation of our human artistic library and allow participants to learn from one another in a way they may not have considered prior," Kroposky said.

Members of the Kean community are free to observe the exhibit Monday through Friday. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. There is no admission cost to visit the gallery.

"The overall objective is for viewers to understand that while we may look different, come from different walks of life, etc., in the end, we are all a part of the sea of humanity. Thus, sharing much more than we may realize," Kroposky said. "We hope viewers understand, at the end of the day, no matter who or what we are, we all struggle, we all feel joy, we all feel pain and we are all in it together."

The Human Rights Institute can be reached at 908-737-4670 and humanrights@kean.edu.

about the author

Amanda Petty is double majoring in English-writing and communication studies while also pursuing a minor in marketing. Amanda has been a member of The Cougar's Byte, as an Editor and now Senior Editor, since Fall 2014. In her senior year at Kean University, she is excited to strive after a career in book publishing. The ultimate goal is to go into the editorial department, ideally working with young adult fiction.