Tag Archive: Silliman

  1. Exhibit merges art and social justice

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    This October, the act of bridging the gap between Yale and the Elm City can go beyond just public outreach and community service.

    On Sunday, the Yale Humanist Community sponsored “Art as Social Justice,” an exhibit and panel discussion featuring seven Connecticut-based artists. The exhibit, which is on display in Silliman College’s Maya’s Room until early November, highlights the role of art as a tool for social activism and building movements. The panel also served as an opportunity to introduce the Green Light Project, a community-based initiative that focuses on creating stronger bonds between New Haven and Yale through the installation of a sculpture on the New Haven Green. The piece, which stands 17 feet high, has nine sides that represent the nine squares of the original New Haven Colony plan. The sculpture will be done in aluminum and plexiglass and will glow brighter as more people surround it.

    Chris Stedman, executive director of the Yale Humanist Community, said that he believes the sculpture has the potential to foster closer ties between the city and the University. He said that it celebrates Yale and the Elm City’s “shared humanity,” encouraging interpersonal relationships among all the city’s residents.

    “We hope that the seasonal interactive sculpture will create opportunities for people to stop, gather and connect with one another in the center of New Haven during a time of year that can feel challenging, even isolating, for so many,” Stedman said.

    Ted Salmon, owner of EWS 3-D — an architectural metal fabrication company — and the sculptor heading the Green Light Project, said he got inspiration for the images directly from the local community.

    Community building and representation were also themes central to the panelists’ works. Sculptor Eóin Burke raised questions about representing figures and bodies in his work through the “lens of privilege” as a white male. Arvia Walker discussed her photography, which features protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement. She emphasized her desire to “change and elevate” the narratives surrounding black and brown communities, something she hopes to do by documenting the movement’s children. Similarly, Susan Hoffman Fishman and Elena Kalman, who work with mixed media, created an interactive installment called “The Wave.” The project was intended to serve as an educational tool to raise awareness about the global water crisis.

    Painter Tracie Cheng noted that even pieces that do not overtly address social justice issues can take on meanings of their own separate from the artist.

    “I really enjoy seeing the amount of questions that come up when people look at my paintings. I like when they answer the questions themselves,” Cheng said. “In instances when they’re really struggling with something, they see so much more depth in my work than I can offer them.”

    Other artists agreed that the role of emotion is central when connecting to a broader audience. Walker said that emotion allows for the piece to become a catalyst in addressing a larger issue, adding that it invokes a human response within the viewer.

    Juancarlos Soto, a graphic designer, emphasized the universal quality art can take on when creating bonds and organizing movements. Soto, who moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico when he was 16, initially struggled with English and communicated through drawing.

    “Often, when I couldn’t get what I wanted to say out, I would sketch it out. People could then understand what I was trying to say,” Soto said. “Art transcends language, and it amplifies our voices in ways that regular organizing can’t usually do. It’s also something that lasts much longer than the person who created it.”

    On Nov. 13, the Green Light Project will host a fundraising event featuring food from local restaurants and comedy followed by the conceptual unveiling of the interactive sculpture on the New Haven Green.

  2. An Unexpected Fright

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    Shivering from the cold, I’m one of many students waiting outside of Silliman’s entryway M on a crisp Tuesday night. We’re all here for the same reason: the college’s venerable haunted house. The line stretched far down the courtyard, and the anticipation after a year of the Halloween staple’s absence was evident. Needless to say, the wait was long, but I eventually found myself at the front.

    The first impression formed was one of playfulness. Two silent, masked actors wandered up and down the line that had formed, one passing out candy while the other overdramatically sulked about. With the rather cute decorations gracing the master’s house and the laid-back chatter that filled the atmosphere, the event seemed more lighthearted rather than fright-filled and serious.

    As the tour guide led my group down into the basement, my preconceptions were merely reinforced. The guide explained to us that we were about to enter a mental health care center for celebrities, and that we would meet Britney Spears, Kanye West and Miley Cyrus. Yet, as the door opened and we all shuffled into the grimly lit basement hallway, it took a turn.

    Just enough light slivered around the corners onto the walls for the tour group to make out their surroundings. Immediately, one could tell that the decorations were minimal and sterile, yet a little off-kilter — quite befitting of a dilapidated mental health hospital. Plastic covers taped to certain corridors acted to funnel the group into one-way tunnels, and while the plastic and tape did appear a little patched-up and crude, the overall claustrophobic effect it created was surprisingly heavy. The haunted house used the natural eeriness of the basement to its advantage, exposing it instead of drowning it in decorations.

    Entering the hallway, the thud of the closing door was quickly followed by screams. A girl previously hidden in the dark had crawled forward in contorted lurches, causing shrieks and panicked shuffling all around. Face shrouded by tussled hair, dressed in a dirtied white patient gown, the “patient” kept on walking until she was breathing down the neck of whoever was unfortunate enough to be in the back. Yet, unlike many of the actors and actresses in the haunted house, this patient, rather than becoming humorously melodramatic in proximity, remained truly hair-raising. This first encounter instantly set the tone for the entire experience.

    Walking through the “care center,” the group was led to a few wards that housed the celebrities. However, these wards, generally better lit and more open than the corridors, often lost the oppressed atmosphere that turned out to be the forte of the haunted house. In walking through the hallways, there was a constant fear that something would jump out at the turn of the corner or sneak up from behind; it promoted a kind of anxiety and panic that built on itself through paranoia, much of which was lost in the rather static moments when the group was left standing still. In fact, these moments often took away the mystery that accompanied movement into the unknown, giving time for the group to become familiar with their surroundings and making apparent the slight theatrical ridiculousness of the actors.

    In the narrow hallways that the group snaked through, the ambiance was unexpectedly ominous. From an actor stumbling down the hallway and “vomiting” next to the group to a man popping out from a ledge positioned six feet above ground, the erratic and distorted activities kept the atmosphere tense. And somehow, through it all, the haunted house still managed to keep its initial playful charm. The frightening moments were the kind that left me laughing at the fact that I was actually frightened — after all, having Miley Cyrus jump out at you quickly turns entertaining after the immediate shock.

    The haunted house proved not only to be fun, but atmospheric and well produced. While not taking itself too seriously, the haunted house was not the purely lighthearted joyride I anticipated going in, but it was this very contrast that made it all the more memorable.