In light of the need to have an outlet for students’ feelings, we were inspired to create a larger event based on the idea of Artprize held every year in Michigan. We decided to follow in their footsteps and make an art festival of our own called Smith ReAct. This was a way of expressing feelings via art projects, performances, and personal messages across campus. In the weeks prior to the event (which took place on December 9), our team worked together to secure three different music acts, food, and a space for presenting our projects. We also created flyers to help spread the word and emailed different org leaders to raise awareness of the event. There were several different booths that ranged from recording voice messages to taking memorable polaroid pictures to weave a collage. Below are the installations that were presented at Smith ReAct as described by their creator.
Bottled Emotions – Natasha Sharma
This project was inspired by an illustration of bottles full of emotions. I had seen it on Pinterest and wanted to create a physical version. I thought that it would be an interesting way to document the overall thoughts and feelings of the Smith College campus. Especially after the election, it seemed that people were open to sharing their feelings, perhaps in the hopes that their fellow community members also felt a similarly. It was almost a way to tabulate the campus climate. This “data” was interesting because often times we do not get to see how universal our emotions can be. Sometimes, it is easy to feel isolated by thinking that only you (as an individual) feel a sense of hope, for example. I was also inspired by the “I feel” and “I hope” boxes and wanted to see these emotions play out in a different form. I think that this project also links to a previous conversation on a prototype surrounding mood and colors. While working on the weaving tree project, we had talked about the idea of colorful string and how an emotion could represent a mood or feeling. I think that in a way, this prototype echoes that idea.
The materials were simple: 6 glass bottles, food coloring, a turkey baster. I used the vinyl cutter to label each bottle with a different emotion. The emotions included: love, hope, anger, excitement, fear and confusion. It seemed that people were intrigued by the colorful set-up and the unusual form of expression. Participants came up to the booth and I asked them how they felt today. People followed up with questions such as: “do I just take this [turkey baster] and put the color corresponding with it in a bottle?”, “can I mix colors?, “is it okay if I am feeling several of these emotions?”. At the end of the event, most of the colors in the bottle had turned into a brown color. I did not anticipate how much instruction would be needed for this and ended up telling people that they could interpret the project in anyway they liked. For example, even though the corresponding colors for a specific emotion were right in front of the bottle, people did not understand that you had to pick that color. Instead, they just picked a color they liked and proceeding to put it in a bottle.
In future iterations of this project, I would present more clear instruction. This way, there would be no space for confusion. However, I do prefer that people interpret their surroundings and activities that they choose to participate in, in their own way. Perhaps this is why I did not correct them when they started to mix the colors in each bottle.
Photo Quilt – Amanda Lavond
Continuing the concept from my group’s prototype to learn, I decided to move forward with the idea of creating a photo quilt at Smith ReACT. I modified the concept further during this stage to make it simpler for users. One of my goals was to make it as easy to participate in as possible. As people walked to my booth or nearby booths, I would greet them and ask if I could take their photo. I explained that I was trying to show the interconnectedness of Smith students by sewing the quilt. Most people thought the idea was really cool, and stayed and watched me. When I took their photo it was interesting to see the poses people made depending on if they were alone or posed with a group. Some people said they didn’t want to take photos alone. One of my favorite moments of making the quilt was seeing a student approach another student and ask if they could take a photo together because she didn’t want to take a photo alone. They were strangers and introduced themselves to one another and then posed for the photo. I was happy to see people interact with one another like this. After I took people’s photos, I told them they could stick around and draw on their photo or write words of encouragement or a quote of some sort. The decorations ranged from fun borders to quotes like “Ada love,” “Take note of today,” and “Never thought I would make it here.” People liked reading what others had written and took time thinking how they wanted to personalize theirs. I was happy with the ease of participation and the reception of the quilt from students.
I had wanted to make the quilt for various reasons. For one, the actual making of the quilt referenced previous discussions in our special studies on reclaiming femininity. We had played with string in a lot of our prototypes, and had talked about sewing and knitting and what it meant for us to participate in these feminine activities. By sewing the quilt, I had hoped to make an allusion to the idea of quilting being a woman’s work. I also thought that sewing would be a good way to show the physical connections of Smith students. In our previous prototype, we had talked about making a grid of student photos. However, the grid made students seem more individualistic rather than as a unified student body. By sewing the quilt I had hoped to show the community aspect of the school. Giving students the chance to draw on their photos served as an outlet for students to express their feelings and creativity as well as to look at other student’s feelings and see how they all related. I didn’t try and categorize the quilt, I sewed people together based on the order the photos were taken in. Letting students decorate the photos gave them more control over what their piece of the quilt expressed.
I thought that my prototype was well received and that people enjoyed participating. On my end, it would be nice to find a material that didn’t squirt ink all over the place as that stained some of the photos. I did enjoy sewing the quilt on site because it gave people an idea how their photo would be incorporated into the bigger picture. The novelty of the polaroid camera definitely appealed to students as they would excitedly wait for their photo to develop so the could draw on it (I used that time to converse with them or to suggest they visit the other booths while they wait). I’d like to expand my quilt and make it bigger. It would also be cool to make a “quilt” of people who know one another and to sew them together to show the strands and connectivity of students on campus rather than randomly placing them. I’d also like to consider how to make the quilt address belonging more full on, and so maybe randomly sewing achieves that better because it doesn’t single someone out if they don’t know anyone who has taken a photo. In the future to address belonging more it could be useful to look into the process of taking the photo and the conversation that happens between me and the user. Perhaps the quilt is one way of representing connectivity, but the experience of taking the photo is where feelings and conversations surrounding belonging emerge.
One of the major concerns we had for the event was accessibility, knowing that many students might not be able to participate due to disabilities, privacy, and previous commitments, so we aimed to address these concerns with a way for everyone to participate, regardless of where they are or who they are. This came together in the form of a public podcast through Anchor, a free app in which anyone can record two minute podcasts and upload them to a public feed. We created a #SmithReact feed and set up a booth with a red curtain, a speaker, explanatory posters, and an ipad so that people could record there directly or from their phones and it would all be broadcasted at the event. This allowed everyone to have a voice at the event even if they couldn’t physically be there, and allowed it to have impact long after the event ended. In the end, I believe it would have been more successful if we could have advertised the app and feed earlier so that more people knew about it and were ready to participate during the event.
Notes to the World – Bailey Smith-Dewey and Natasha Sharma
The day after the election of 2016, with the majority of the campus in disbelief and grief, we wanted a place for individuals to share their thoughts. We placed boxes in a variety of buildings across campus where people could write responses to the questions “I feel”, “I hope” and “I want”. We also created a board where people could respond to the prompt “Dear World..” (described above) with a post-it. Soon after these projects, we began thinking about how we could share these thoughts with our campus. We wanted to help people know they’re not alone in their feelings.
We wondered how we could do something impactful with all this data we collected. We asked ourselves some important questions. How can we display these notes in way that would be interesting for members of the community to read? Should we make a sculpture out of these notes so that it could serve as a symbol of healing on campus? How can we give justice to these thoughts and feelings while remaining respectful?
We let those notes linger in the Design Thinking Initiative office until we decided to engrave them onto acrylic. We went through a few design ideas: a sculpture on Burton Lawn, a “stained glass” hanging in the CC, placing these notes in different nooks around campus.
After drafting several different ideas, we decided to laser print these notes into little pieces of acrylic. We used zip ties to connect these 4×6 pieces to the chains surrounding Chapin Lawn. These blue acrylic pieces were slightly transparent, but the wording was still visible. It was a simple way to connect with the daily lives of individuals, along a well used path and remind people that such feelings are okay and again, not singular. There were about 60 notes in total. We also attached a small sign on both ends of the chain that described our project, telling bypassers that it was a response to the 2016 presidential election.
We watched as people stopped to read these notes and interact with them. It was fascinating to see how people were engaging with these notes. In a way, the notes told a story. We wanted to create a narrative that went from darkness to light. That is, these notes started with sadness and moved to hope. Our last note even said, “we will move forward.” A Northampton resident approached us and said that this display was “very necessary” and the right way to “move forward and move on.”
We found people instagramming some of these pieces (perhaps words that spoke to them) and some even recognized their own words..
We think the most exciting part of this project is that we were able to do justice to very delicate and important feelings. The form we created can be used for many projects to come. The acrylic pieces were unobtrusive to the user and provided a clear way to get the message across without taking away from any of the feelings associated with that message.
We hope that moving forward we can use the acrylic pieces as a medium and a platform for new projects. While those messages might have been hard for many to read, we hope that it created conversations, or at the very least let people know that many of their feelings are ubiquitous.
A Chalkboard for Expression – Laura Lilienkamp and Shira Breen
We wanted to make something that would ask people to draw, doodle, write, and express themselves in general. We ended up making a chalkboard so that it could be reusable and useful for other organizations and events in the future. We hoped that people would enjoy both the experience of making it and the experience of drawing on it.
The chalkboard itself was created by cutting open a large cardboard box and gluing cardboard and wood scraps to its edges to make a border. One of the most interesting parts of this creation was that each person had their own collage style, and some of the best areas of the piece happened when two different styles merged. The collaged cardboard was spray painted with chalkboard paint. This piece was inspired by Louise Nevelson, an artist who creates wooden sculptures and paints them black, and the upcycling movement, which uses trash and unwanted materials to make art and functional objects. The chalkboard was created in conjunction with the Makerspace, and was left near the entrance to Smith ReACT with the message “Draw something” when completed. Throughout the event, people would add onto other people’s existing drawings, or start their own doodle in a corner of the board.
What Sustains Smith? – Maia Erslev
The “What Sustains Smith?” project was a collaborative effort of two Smith student organizations, Engineers for a Sustainable World and Design/Architecture @ Smith. The idea came from the desire to create an interactive and collaborative art piece that gives the Smith community an opportunity to express themselves. After ideating, we found we gravitated towards the ideas of using many different small objects to create an art piece, and the concept of building an object together. After experimenting with different mediums like paper, straws, and cardboard, and looking at work by various artists, we eventually cut cardboard into building blocks that people could slide on top of each other to form a tower-like structure. We came up with the question, “what sustains Smith?” and left the word “sustains” open for interpretation so we got a variety of answers. The piece elicited a variety of responses, including “community, alumni donations, and student workers.”
Performers and Orgs – Shira Breen and Jackie Byun
Before the event, we reached out to the Smith Music Collective as well as Smith Music and Memory to see if there were any students interested in playing. A few students responded and provided a few different options of types of music. We were offered the option of “more broody music that Smithies wrote themselves, or covers of some top 40 songs from the 1960s.” Essentially, did we want it to be more cutsie or more performative? After discussing as a group, we felt that it would be important to highlight artwork that students had created and provide a platform for that self-expression to be shared. Two students from the Smith Music Collective, Anjali Kumar and Mia Lloyd each played a song they had written. Anjali’s song was an angry song she had written after the election, and Mia’s song was a calming song with lots of imagery included in the lyrics. Having student performers made the event feel much more like a dialogue and definitely attracted more interested passerbys. WOZQ performed in between the other musical performances organized throughout the event, more specifically the Smith Music Collective and the Jazz Band.