Connection through a cultural art installation

Photo by Yzeppa Macias | MSU Denver Department of Modern Languages ​​art installation on the second floor of the Plaza building.

Over the summer, MSU Denver’s Modern Languages ​​Department installed student-created artwork on the windows outside the Plaza building on the second floor.

Maria Akrabova, who has chaired the department since 2015, said in an interview with the Metropolitan that she came up with the idea of ​​using the exterior windows of the second-floor office buildings as a space apart from to showcase art created by students at MSU Denver.

“Our aim was to create a more integrated sense of community, both among students and faculty and our own modern languages ​​department, and to have it in some way as a pull factor for potential students and for the larger campus community as well. Akrabova said.

Because of campus signage policy of the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) which declared that “the publication of announcements, leaflets, posters, advertisements, leaflets or printed materials of any kind is prohibited anywhere on the Auraria campus” , including outside buildings. Akrabova was unable to exhibit any type of artwork outside the building, until last semester, when AHEC finally allowed the department to display the mural.

“AHEC was ready to welcome campus initiatives again and it was our return to campus – come back to a colorful space that will bring you some joy,” Akrabova said. “The fact that you are in the heart of the university, looking at the skyline and enjoying the mountains as well.”

The eight students who participated were part of the Studio M class in the spring, which is a Communication Design class where students earn internship credits.

After connect themes between different identities, cultures and ethnicities through different Ideas that started with food and went through color, the project students came up with the concept of representing cultures from around the world through their textile patterns.

Sarah Barz, who specializes in design communication, told the Metropolitan: “We ended up using textiles as a source of inspiration because every culture, no matter where it is in the world, all has a unique textile component and that really inspired a lot of visual choices. ”

According to students working on the project, “Textiles and patterns are an important element for cultures around the world. Based on the seven languages ​​taught in the department, these visuals represent the traditional patterns and textiles found in these specific cultures. They create a sense of community among the cross cultures found on campus.

The main objective of this project was to create a sense of community among the students and the Modern Languages ​​Department, in order to accomplish it, the students had to find relevant cultural models that represented each culture.

In essence, it was just culturally relevant imagery. And trying to make sure that whatever colors we choose, they would be representative of the language, culture and people in one way or another and that’s really what we found very important. Said Barz.

For some students, the creation of this project had a personal impact as they were able to connect to their roots and their culture.

Reinna Florez, another student who was involved in the design process for this project, said it was something personal for her.

Florez worked on the Spanish section and she said it was interesting to know more about the pyramid of Chichen Itza which is integrated into the artwork.

“Just being able to connect with my culture was very important to me,” she said. “It was very informative and a learning experience as I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish but try to learn as I go.”

For John Gearhart, the process of working with the class was enjoyable as it was a long process of researching different cultures, models and cultural conceptions. Make sure they represent all cultures fairly, “It’s just like being able to get this deeper richness of culture but also being able to produce something,” Gearhart said.

Gearhart worked on the Korean play and mentioned that it had a personal impact on him since he’s half Korean, “It was fun to be able to specifically examine what is considered a traditional Korean pattern or what is commonly used or the colors commonly found in designs.” “It was actually a really fun project to research and design, because there was a little personal touch as well,” he said.

Akrabova hopes this can be an annual event and change the theme of the installation every year.

“[Art] is so crucial and central to the human experience and every moment that could be presented and brought to light is something that makes me personally very happy. Akrobova said.

The students who designed the mural were Sarah Barz, Ashley LaFrance, Eric Sanchez Medel, John Gearhart, Kiran Majid, Moussa Sakouk, Reinna Florez and Sarah Steck.

The installation is a heat-treated vinyl that is visible from inside the office and does not block natural sunlight from entering the space.

All the parts are crossed by a wave which connects them and makes them flow in one part. According to Gearhart, “it was meant to be inviting to show that we welcome all who are representative to our campus.”

All the window represents one language in the department and three additional languages ​​in the Directed Independent Language Studies (DILS) program.

The seven languages ​​taught by the department are Chinese, ASL, French, Italian, Japanese, German and Spanish.

The languages ​​of the DILS program are Russian, Portuguese and Korean.

AHEC gave the department permission to exhibit the mural for one calendar year. The facility will remain until August 2022.


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