UConn SHAPE celebrates diversity in 'As I Am' art show

Pictures line the walls during the University of Connecticut's SHAPE 'As I Am' art show. The gallery was covered with photographs of students from every race, sex and walk of life at UConn. The pictures featured car enthusiasts, ROTC cadets, strength athletes, “Starcraft” gamers and dining hall employees. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s SHAPE sought to celebrate diversity in their new “As I Am” art show, featuring students and people from every corner of UConn.

The gallery was covered with photographs of students from every race, sex and walk of life at UConn. The pictures featured car enthusiasts, ROTC cadets, strength athletes, “Starcraft” gamers and dining hall employees, to name a few. Several members of SHAPE spoke about the work that went into getting the photos and preparing the gallery.

“This year we specifically knew we wanted to do photography, so first we had to get photographers. Then, if they don’t have models to shoot we have to find models,” said Elizabeth Pelletier, an applied math and science major and member of SHAPE.

Others members of SHAPE focused on the quotes that were below each photo, which contained a few thoughts from the model on beauty or the modeling process. These quotes ranged from lengthy explanations of love and beauty to single lines and even a definition pulled straight from Urban Dictionary.

“We had to get people to do photographs and sign contracts. We had everyone do a little quote…As all the responses show, everyone took it their own way,” said Kat Kelly, a sixth-semester English major and member of SHAPE.

Pelletier emphasized that SHAPE was looking for models from many different backgrounds, including groups and people that wouldn’t normally come to mind when people think of models.

“We try to do social media blats, and even just telling your class or a group you’re a part of, hey, here’s what we’re doing. This year, we wanted to make sure the models weren’t your stereotypical, traditional models. We specifically wanted everybody. Your mom, your dad, everybody,” Pelletier said.

Several models were also present at the show to look at the photographs. One model, Megan Ceva, explained that she wanted her photo to show that girls could be athletic and wore her Spartan medals, which are medals given out for completing varying lengths of a race. 

“I wanted to showcase that girls could be super-sporty. My friend Katie and I, we knew a photographer, so we went to Horsebarn Hill on a really windy day, but we wanted to get the natural landscape. We struck some silly poses, but I wanted to have my Spartan race medals on,” said Ceva, an eighth-semester psychology major. “It was fun.”

Models described how they went into the show unsure of what to anticipate, but came away feeling an improved sense of self-worth.

“I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. They said to sit down, relax and be comfortable so I sat down with the guy and we talked about photography. It helped me to appreciate my self-worth and appreciate myself physically. It was a really great experience, actually,” said Patrick Carr, an eighth-semester environmental sciences major and one of the models for the show.

The diversity in the models was also reflected in the different kinds of photographs that were on display. Photos ranged from light to black and white, from action shots to still poses and from group shots to photos where the subject’s face isn’t visible. Model Katie Speer spoke about how it felt seeing so many people at the art show who could express themselves.

“I’m really happy to see so many people. I love how people express themselves through their photo and their quote,” said Speer, a sixth-semester animal science and pre-med major. “It was just really fun.”


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.