By Caitlin Hill


When talking about the Arts it can be heavily overshadowed by performing art; people see the Nutcracker during Christmas, attend a concert, or support their child in a play but won’t visit an art gallery. It can also be outcasted from the mind by stating “but I’m not very good at it.” I often come across this statement often in my own life when asking the question “what kind of art are you interested in?” The answer is usually, “oh I’m not good at any artistic things.” It seems that there is a misconception that to like art you have to be good at art–which I find to be completely wrong.

This semester at UPP we wanted to have an event that involved art to dispel that myth. In previous years I was an Arts mentor at the university, where for a time I also lived in a living-learning community called the Arts Village. I was able to use these connections to help launch a collaborative event between current arts village students and ours at UPP. The formation of this event resurfaced thoughts I had as a mentor, where I learned how people discounted art unless they had some previous talent. I also anticipated that there would be great difficulties coming up with an arts project that could be collaborative and instructive for beginners, and also had concern that there might be major communication meltdowns. Needless to say, the interns and coordinator of student life at UPP were apprehensive of the execution of this event.

As a team of interns and with the consultation of arts village experts, we were able eventually land on an idea. The inspiration for the mural was the Wolfpack hand-sign, and we split it up into several sections to paint as a theme. Each group would be given a different theme, such as locations, food, pop-culture, history, etc. and had to include Chinese and American perspectives into the representation of their section. Each of the six groups had a native English speaker and two to three UPP students.

During the event I was able to participate with two other UPP students–our theme was Pop Culture. Suggesting my students to think about Chinese pop-culture presented some surprising misunderstandings–I was immediately told that China is so vast that there isn’t one thing that they could think of that would be good. It took me a few minutes to get everyone to agree on just doing what they liked, or thought of as, pop-culture. We eventually settled on a Chinese movie representation, a reference to a popular game in China, the Chinese and American flag, and other American pop-culture symbols.

The idea of pop culture, is in itself vast. In the America’s it can be a lot to think about. There is music, TV, movies, games, celebrities, internet culture, and much more. With my group it wasn’t a sense of “My culture vs. Your culture”, but it was more of a sense of “what do I define as pop culture,” which was not really what I expected. I expected just names of celebrities, or specific phrases, or just very general things to paint or express. I didn’t expect these sections to get so personal to the individual, though in hindsight I realize this is what art is all about.

Not to mention there were some amazing artists in the groups!! I made rounds to see the other 5 sections and I was blown away. People were painting, and if they couldn’t express something in a common language they were able to visually represent it. Objects created a new way to ask questions, “what is that”, “why is that important”, “I didn’t know that”, and so much more for an open medium of discussion.

In the end, I think the students were surprised that they could not only admire art but also be a participant, but also how much fun art is. This is one of my favorite things about art–art is for everyone, is can share times, places, feelings, and thoughts. And it can help make friendships. It can cross cultures, and it can combine them.