Art exhibit opening: The stories that make us Storrs 

Aniqa Islam and Alexis Montro presenting “Efforts & Fears” by Nooshin Farashaei. Photo courtesy of Author.

On Monday, Nov. 13, a unique art exhibit was opened, arranging artworks in three locations on the Storrs campus. A recent revelation, created through the collaboration of the University of Connecticut Global Affairs and McMahon Residence Hall, the works of over 35 artists are now on display in the Global House Lounge in McMahon, the Center for International Students and Scholars and the Global Affairs Hallway in the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education. These efforts are the culmination of students, staff and faculty. 

Presented by Aniqa Islam, the Multimedia Content Producer for the Office of Global Affairs, and Alexis Monteiro, the Residence Hall Director of McMahon, their respective offices shared an interest in “thinking about ways to tell stories,” as Monteiro puts it. He prefaces the presentation by noting the importance of acknowledging the history of our land, which has been maintained by various tribes of Indigenous peoples for centuries and labored over by enslaved Black people at a point in history. 

The idea for the exhibit stemmed from New York photographer, Brandon Stanton, who runs the “Humans of New York” brand of everyday photography on social media. His inspiration can be seen in photographs of Adam Prince, a freshman hailing from Dubai, near campus locations like the Student Recreation Center that many students walk past every day. The point to be made here is that regardless of our cultures and backgrounds, we are all here at UConn now, creating an amalgamation of experiences that are expressed through exhibits like this. 

There are included photographs taken here in the United States, France and Africa, the latter of which was shown through a trip taken by student Claire Cathers, thanks to UConn. She captures the vibrancy of nature and architecture through the many pictures provided of the trip in all three locations of the exhibit. Other featured photographs include the interior of a vast French cathedral to simple still shots of squirrels.  

Islam asserts, “I’ve always believed that artwork has a way of transcending these cultural and language boundaries, and it’s one of the few mediums that…can go across all cultures and boundaries.” 

Not all of the artwork was of the photographic medium, though. Collages and even poems spanned the walls of these buildings. However, the most captivating piece came in the form of a 2D-motion video titled “Efforts & Fears” by Nooshin Farashaei, published in 2021. The video, viewable on YouTube, played on a loop for all onlookers to view in its entirety. It begins with a sitting woman depicted through dot art, reminiscent of pointillism. The video then zooms in on the dots, revealing empowering mantras, and once the video zooms back out, the woman is revealed to be performing a handstand, “a metaphorical representation of achieving stability and success in a new land,” according to Farashaei, who faced a long and arduous immigration journey herself. This piece displayed in such glory represents the strength of an exhibit like this, breathing a new life into these artworks by giving them a fresh set of eyes to feast upon them, especially in person and not merely through the internet. 

Photographs of Priyanshi Sitlani and friends. Artwork by Aniqa Islam. Photo courtesy of Author.

After giving acknowledgments and concluding the presentation, I spoke with Islam, who stated, “Humans of UConn is an art exhibit that celebrates the global impact of our university, on behalf of international education.” She further elaborated, “Our goals with this exhibit ultimately lie with celebrating all of the stories and unique narratives that come together to make our community as diverse and as vibrant as possible.”  

Fittingly, there was a particular focus on celebrating international students in the Center for International Students and Scholars, and there were many pieces representing South Korea in the Global Affairs Hallway in Rowe, such as one thought-provoking photograph showing South Korean citizens using smartphones in an old cultural building. 

Assorted cookies, brownies and refreshments were also provided at all three locations by McMahon staff, which definitely enhanced the viewing pleasure for all. 

The exhibit will remain open in all three locations for the remainder of this semester, so feel free to peruse them if you get the chance! 

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