By Contributing Writer Abigail Field
Students entering the Campus Center at the beginning of this semester were likely surprised, and hopefully delighted, to be met with large canvas photographs depicting student life, campus activities, and the recent ground-breaking of the new dorms. “I tried to think about ‘What will really visually impact people to make this feel like home?’” said Vice Chancellor Shannon Finning. “One of the things about home is that you see yourself!”
VC Finning went on to explain that last semester, in talking to students about how to make the Campus Center feel more welcoming, the consensus had been that students wished to see themselves better reflected in the rather limited art and images of students from years before. “I’m a Super Saver,” said VC Finning. “I used ShutterFly and any time I get the 50% plus 20% off coupons I will be adding more canvas pictures.” In total, the 35 pictures cost only $1,019 in total, with $800 coming from leftover funds of the General Operating Budget at the end of the spring semester, and the remainder being paid for by VC Finning personally.
As far as the content of the posters, being that the project began at the end of the previous semester, the pool of photographs had been relatively limited at first. For one, ShutterFly would only fit certain photograph sizes. IPhone pictures would not work as the resolution wasn’t high enough to have them be very large. The worry, therefore, was that printing these pictures smaller might result in students feeling like they weren’t important because they were such a small image. As of now, the pictures consist largely of athletics (since last semester a parent had taken some particularly good photographs at games), community service events, the Leduc and Women, Gender, and Sexuality centers, the ground breaking, and other student activities.
“We really tried to be judicious and intentional about the placement,” VC Finning said. Near the UMass Pass office, for example, is a large photograph of the Corsair Olympics. “Its something most of our undergraduate students do. It serves as a reminder that we all started here. The picture is of a really passionate group; they’re sweating, the had just won, it was super exciting! It’s like, we all came in at the same place and we’re all figuring it out together,” the Vice Chancellor asserted. Likewise, the picture of the group breaking is closest to where one can walk out and actually see the construction. “It’s not perfect, but it’s a way to get started,” she said of the placement.
Initially, SAIL, the school’s photographic area, and Dining had been contacted with the request for photographs. That said, VC Finning has since hired a photographer who will be attending events like Revival by the Gospel Choir, as well as theatre productions and other cultural festivals that take place in the auditorium. She is also hoping to get photographs of the Relay for Life and other Greek Life events.
VC Finning had requested that Christopher Laib, the Director of Student Activities from the SAIL office, reach out to other groups on campus, “like 20 Cent and the Muslim Student Association” said Finning, asking for photographs from their activities. “I don’t think we have received any from them at this time.” When asked, Laib said that he didn’t recall if he specifically did that, or if “it was something… Wayne or Stacey did” and that he would have to check. The Torch has not received any follow up from him at this point in time. However, neither Gabriella Barthe (English masters, 2020) the point of contact for 20 Cent Fiction, nor Veronica Szmczak (Marketing and Managing double major, 2020) of the acapella group Mental Note, nor Tayyaba Tariq (Accounting and Finance, 2020) of the Muslim Student Association have received any emails from SAIL regarding their sending over photographs to be used on the posters thus far.
“I’m hopeful that the other buildings will be inspired to do something like this too! And CVPA has a new dean who’s awesome, and I’m hopeful that we can do some collaborations, like having musical performers during the day, or perhaps an end-of-semester student art gallery, so we can really honor the students,” Finning said. The end goal, it seems, is to continue to get new photographs for use in the campus center so the canvases can be moved around and cycled through as the semesters go by.