Student Organizations Collaborate for Queer Visibility
On Thursday, October 11th, 2018, two student organizations came together to construct a collaborative art piece. Pirates for Pride and Art Association co-hosted the event in honor of National Coming Out Day and recognized October’s significance as LGBTQ History Month since 1994.
Members of both organizations and the wider Southwestern community participated in setting up the infrastructure of the piece, hundreds of strands of yarn strung between the flagpoles in front of the Red and Charline McCombs Campus Center to form a rainbow web. Dozens of students– even our very own President Burger– contributed, weaving designs, words, and even crocheted shapes throughout the multi-colored strands. The end result was around twenty feet across and quite striking, a swath of color and texture to contrast sharply against its environment, visible from across the lawn that marks the center of campus. Along with the yarn and woven elements of the piece, students used clothespins to attach other forms of two-dimensional art to the installation. These additions included drawings, printed graphic art, a variety of pride flags, and poetry by queer individuals about their identity or experience, both from published authors and Southwestern students. A black and white sign, small and unobtrusive, occupied one corner of the installation, describing the piece in the simplest of terms, allowing the art to speak for itself through the student’s contributions: “This is an art installation that is meant to bring visibility to S.U.’s LGBTQ+ community. Created by Pirates for Pride and Art Association.”
I visited the installation several times throughout the day, and it seemed to me that it achieved its purpose, providing the Southwestern student body with an opportunity to release creative energy through an artistic form of activism.
The weather was a major contributor to the event’s success. As students, faculty, staff, and administration sauntered across the Academic Mall and along the brick pathway bordering it, many people couldn’t resist stopping to ask about the piece and its purpose, read a poem or examine a drawing.
Although the success of this art installation is something to be celebrated and the widespread recognition of the National Day of Coming Out is evidence of some degree of tolerance (and sometimes, in rare cases, even acceptance) of the queer community, this cannot be mistaken for equality on any meaningful level. Due to the nature of the installation, it only remained in place for a day, but allyship is a year-round commitment. The Southwestern students, faculty, and administration must commit to being mindful of making space for those who stray from normative standards of gender and sexuality.
If you’re interested in learning about more upcoming events hosted by Art Association or Pirates for pride, you can find them on Instagram at @pirates4pride and @SU_art_ass.