Mirrors, some larger than the passersby who stop to stare at them and some only a few inches across, cover the floor of the Bekenstein Atrium at the Yale School of Management.
The mirrors are on display for “ESPEJISMO: A Festival of Borrowed Reflections,” an art display created as a collaboration between SOM students, Colombian-American artist Yazmany Arboleda and LimeSHIFT, a New York-based creative art agency. The project, headed by Gayla Burks SOM ’17 and Elaine Dang SOM ’17, asks viewers to reflect on the question “When people see you, what would you like them to know?” Responses submitted from Yale students, New Haven residents and people around the world are currently posted on the project’s website. The mirrors, which were sent in by people around the country, were put up on April 24 and will remain on display until April 30.
“We feel humble and grateful that so many people gave us something that is so precious to them, whether that is a mirror or a statement on how they hope to be viewed in the world,” Burks said.
Burks, who now serves as the equity and inclusion chair for the SOM Student Government, said she first wanted to create a project intersecting art and business last year after the SOM hosted a Black Lives Matter panel. The students created a small art piece at that time, but Burks said she wanted a project that would reach a wider audience. She and Dang applied to the SOM dean’s office for funding and was able to contract LimeSHIFT to create a professional piece of artwork.
Burks explained that she and Dang wanted to create an art project that reflects the SOM’s values and include all community members. These community members include the hospitality and custodial workers in the SOM building and members of the broader Yale and New Haven communities, she said.
“In this climate it is easy to dismiss people who we label as other,” said Elizabeth Thys, co-founder of LimeSHIFT. “There is a need for real understanding and empathy and art is a great way to do that.”
The display received over 200 mirrors and 300 reflections, each carrying a personal story, Burks said. A purple mirror designed for a small child was donated by a classmate who had a baby last year, she said. A number of antique mirrors, she added, were donated by an Elm City resident and her husband who collect mirrors in the house that his family has lived in for four decades.
Tommy Shi SOM ’18, who donated a small green mirror to the display, said he enjoyed both the emotional and physical shift in perceptive offered by the display. Seeing the ceiling on the floor allowed him to notice things about the hall he had never noticed before. He also enjoyed the mirrors symbolic meaning as a shared daily ritual of self-reflection, he said.
Thys said the agency had its first on-site visit in December and has been working on the project since the end of winter break. Mirrors that were lent to the exhibition will be returned, she said, and those that were donated will be given to community organizations.
But beyond just individuals, Thys noted that a number of community organizations, including Trinity Church on the Green, have participated in the project. She said that she hopes the project will encourage people to “look beneath the surface and engage in more significant conversations.”
LimeSHIFT was founded in 2015 by four alumni from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.