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Nicole C., Harleen D., Mateo D., Jessie G., Abdullah G., Rosa G., Andrew H., Nicole H., Sophia M., Karly M., Norhan O., Devan P., Bryan P., Kyle S., Libby S., Agustin V.

Facilitator: Cynthia Sanchez Gomez

We R United

Mixed media, 20×30 in.
Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Honors Colloquium Section H3

In this image, Section H3 visualized the relationship between unity and diverse student experiences at Rutgers University. Students included themselves in the art by using mixed media from their everyday lives for authenticity that portrays the complexity of art and community. While many students were reluctant to identify as artists at first, this collaboration served to challenge and build students’ definitions of creativity and community.

So You Think You Can Create an Image of Beloved Community

What does beloved community mean?
Section H3 defines a beloved community as a harmonious, collaborative space that unites people of all backgrounds while fostering a sense of acceptance and understanding; an inclusive space where we can ask for help and feel supported at all times.

Throughout our discussions and collaborations, we did not always agree with certain ideas, but we would always listen to and respect one another. Through our different views of community, art, and university, we learned from and listened to one another—and it was these differences that united us.

Wait a second, can we call ourselves artists?
Art builds community. During one of the Honors Colloquium large assemblies, students were asked to raise their hands if they identified as artists. Many students hesitated to raise their hand. However, when students were asked to raise their hand if they were from a specific major, most were comfortable with doing so. Our section had an interesting conversation about this large assembly with Megan Lotts and most found some way to express their creativity during this assembly, regardless of their major—whether that was through creating six word short stories or filling triangles with as many sketches as possible in three minutes.

If there was any doubt that we could produce an image worthy of the title “art,” or any doubt of our own creative abilities, this large assembly served to prove to ourselves that art does not have to be perfect. Art does not have to be limited in its approach because it is not easily defined, and consequently there is not a simple definition for an artist.

From computer science to comparative literature, our section has a variety of different majors, and we each thought and reflected on how creativity can be used in our academic disciplines. From hackathons, to creating unique policy proposals, to incorporating creativity in our learning process, we established unique ways we were already using creativity in our disciplines. After this conversation, it became clear that we might want to include our unique experiences in our final image.

What unites us?
To include our unique and authentic experiences in our final image, we decided to use mixed media. Rather than attempt to create a clean look, mixed media provides a way to portray authenticity that might be excluded for aesthetic purposes. We were inspired to incorporate authenticity in our final image after a large assembly with Professor Gursel, in which she used many examples to illustrate the importance of photography in regards to inclusion and exclusion. In particular, there was an image of a lounge in the Rutgers Honors College that stood out to us. The lounge created a sense of family, with photographs on the wall and a setup that resembles a living room. When zooming in to the photographs, we saw white, able-bodied, male figures from Rutgers history, and upon zooming out, there was a vacuum to the far left of the image that illustrated the labor behind the image that makes spotless lounges and other community experiences possible.

We combined Rutgers culture and vastly different personal experiences at Rutgers University. The classic Rutgers R in the center represents the university that physically unites us, and the images within the text symbolizes our appreciation for art. The differences in our items ultimately brought us together to create our final image.

After almost two years of virtual learning, finding community on campus has not been easy, but this activity shows how images, among other forms of art, can unite people despite their differences. Images can build community, and communities can build images.