Diana Bendit, Ayah Elwan, Ashley Lola Fanka, Alan Levita, Devin Fox, Justin Han, Dilrooh Israil, Arnav Lakkavajjala, Joseph Lee, Sarah Levin, Vicki Ling, Ethan Rust, Rothela Samadi, Keanna Sandoval, Concetta Vecchione, Areeba Wani
Facilitator: Jennifer Kim-Lee
R Beloved Community
Photography collage, 20×30 in.
Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
Honors Colloquium Section H5
The Rutgers community is large, diverse, and rich in culture. Our aim of this project as part of the SAS Honors Colloquium was to depict our beloved community through candid photographs taken by students from across Rutgers University. Photos include architecture, football games, students, the buses, student creativity, and sunsets. While acknowledging the challenges and flaws that students face, we come together as one community to tackle these issues and appreciate our university.
To describe a community at Rutgers University, one needs to look at the tiny aspects of student life and then see the sum of each element and how altogether it makes our community. The good, the bad, even the mundane all make up this beloved community. We ask you to first look at the smaller, individual pictures. Then, investigate the articles through the QR codes. Finally, step back and look at the picture as a whole.
Many of these images feature shared places and shared experiences that most members of our Rutgers community know and love. A beloved community exemplifies characteristics of a place that we want to see thrive, but in order to be the best it can be, its flaws must be acknowledged. The QR codes in this piece emphasize our acknowledgment of the flaws of our community, while many of the photos contrast the flaws and showcase the betterment of the negative aspects presented in the QR codes. The images within the “R” stimulate ideas and conversations that all Rutgers students can connect to – the idea that we are a beloved community that is large yet feels small through a plethora of connections.
Our section developed the idea for our image over the course of several small and large group discussions. Through our conversations, we came to the consensus that we wanted to do something unorthodox, or something you wouldn’t see on a typical college website and that didn’t feel staged. We wanted to showcase both the good and the bad, to paint an honest picture of how we experience the Rutgers community. More specifically, we focused on the ideas of inclusion and exclusion within the community. The positives were portrayed through the photos and the negatives through QR codes that are linked to critical articles. The idea behind including QR codes was that effort needs to be put in to access the negative aspects of our community. An effort needs to be put in to scan the QR code, just like an effort needs to be made to see the good and bad sides of the community. We chose to include a variety of images to showcase as many different aspects of Rutgers as possible. Our goal was to include as many different people as possible to show relatability among various campuses and diverse groups of individuals at a large university. In addition, we thought it was important to emphasize the divide between our Rutgers community and New Brunswick itself. Our project questions if it is possible to love both communities, and how one may cause another to be seen as positive or negative. To create the project itself, our group compiled images that we felt spoke to us, printed them, and made a collage in the shape of an “R” of the images the group decided were most representative of our beloved community.
Our group found inspiration through Rubix cube art trends that utilize the uniqueness of patterned 3D art to bring pieces of an image together. We also got inspiration from QR advertisements that create a new era of actionable media that forces the audience to make an extra effort to inform themselves about a topic. We were very interested in making our image interactive after the assembly meeting we had with Megan Lotts. What makes Lotts’ artwork special is that she prioritizes the audience being a part of the art experience. We found that very profound and interesting, so we decided to incorporate interactiveness into our piece with QR codes. In addition, we were inspired by the big “R” and how it symbolizes the unification of the Rutgers community. The big “R” is placed all around our campuses and we wanted to showcase it because it’s something every Rutgers student can connect to.
After collaboratively working together as a team on this project for the past several weeks, we have learned many new and varied things about our community and Rutgers as a whole. We have learned that the concepts of exclusion and inclusion make us think more critically about photos we see on, for example, college websites. From seeing both the good and bad sides of Rutgers, we understand who we are as a whole community and definitely have a better understanding of our true identity, not the identity that is socially idealistic. We have learned how to reevaluate how we approach and define the idea of “community” and how we interact with our communities. Images are things all of us can relate to even though we are divided among four campuses. This shows that even though Rutgers is a massive school with multiple campuses, we still are one community and brought together by our big “R”. We have learned and acknowledged that we as a community have positives and negatives, but it is part of who we are and we cannot ignore that. Although Rutgers as a school may not be the most idealistic and optimal when compared to the generic standards that universities posture to meet, it’s who we are and we are proud of our identity.