Walk This Way To Challenge Borders


See this image here above. Maybe you’ve encountered it on your way through the first floor of DeWitt, or in the first floor rotunda of Martha Miller, or by the psychology department in Schaap. Maybe you’ve looked at it and thought, “That looks interesting.”

It is. Slow down.

See the image above. Maybe you glanced at it on your way into the dining areas of Cook and Phelps, or in the lobby of DePree and Jack Miller. Maybe it caught your eye by the circulation desk in Van Wylen Library, or just inside the front door of Kruizenga. Maybe you’ve looked at it and thought, “That must have something to say.”

It does. Look closer.

See the image above. It is at all of those nine locations, providing an atypical classroom through a QR code that will teach you. Maybe you’ve looked at it and thought, “That seems like a game changer.”

It can be. Stop.

Get out your phone, scan the code, and learn. The project, “Challenging Borders: Displaced People,” has much to teach you about those whose lives have experienced disruption and disorder due to immigration, climate change, the refugee crisis and mass incarceration. And the disciplines of art and English and science and psychology and communication all converged to do so, crossing interdisciplinary boundaries in order to challenge you about the ways you view borders — domestic or international — and the people who are affected by them.

The best way to take in the “Challenging Borders” project is actually do that: challenge borders by walking the project in its entirety. Traipse to every poster on campus, cross streets, open doors, enter rooms, search hallways, and you’ll feel measures of boundaries as you do.

Funded by a $16,000 Global Crossroads Initiative grant sponsored by the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA), of which Hope is a member, “Challenging Borders: Displaced People” is an interactive, 3-5 minute audio-visual diaspora in those campus locations listed above. Nine faculty/student collaborative projects were selected from across divisions to participate so when you scan each poster’s QR code located on its lower right corner, you’ll engage in interdisciplinary sensory and factual uploading.

“The days of us living in our disciplinary silos are over,” says Dr. Heidi Kraus, co-coordinator of the project. “This project is a great example of disciplines converging. We have people from chemistry, from art, from English, from psychology, from communication all talking together. We are breaking down borders even between our own disciplines with this project.”

The best way to take in the “Challenging Borders” project is actually do that: challenge borders by walking the project in its entirety. Traipse to every poster on campus, cross streets, open doors, enter rooms, search hallways, and you’ll feel measures of boundaries as you do. And it’s a good way to get in 2,481 steps on your day, too. It’s also a good way to encounter multiple perspectives on the complex issues of migration and displacement gripping our nation and world.

“When we thought of challenging borders, we were interested in the idea of movement and bringing a physicality to this,” explains Kraus. “We wanted the feel of borders and of crossing those and walking to spaces. So the idea of a physical diaspora came to fruition.”

“It is like an image in a kaleidoscope: each piece itself is beautiful, but when you look at all of them together, you feel how all of them create something new and even more beautiful.”

“After I saw all the projects, it surprised me how different all of them were but at the same time how all of them complemented each other,” says Dr. Berta Carrasco de Miguel, co-coordinator of the project. “It is like an image in a kaleidoscope: each piece itself is beautiful, but when you look at all of them together, you feel how all of them create something new and even more beautiful.”

You can start at any one of the nine buildings shown on the map above (and identified on a list below). Then think of tackling your walk across campus borders to every project as strolling in a circle, rather than a rectangle, and you’ll begin to feel encompassed and safe inside Hope’s finely groomed green areas and well-kept buildings, a fraught juxtaposition for the images of marginalization and disenfranchisement you’ll soon encounter. As you watch and hear each project depict those who have been displaced and excluded, a needed unease settles in and with it comes the most needed emotion of all: empathy.

So, slow down, look closer and stop to challenge borders, but know this: You won’t walk away the same.

“I hope the Hope community understands the complexity and importance of these topics and gets a feeling of closeness to the main characters of these videos,” adds Carrasco de Miguel.

If walking to every poster in one fell-swoop isn’t within your end-of-the-semester time budget, then take in one project at a time when you happen to be in each building. Slow down, look closer and stop to challenge borders, but know this: You won’t walk away the same.

  1. The Complexities of the Immigration Experience — Prof. Deb Van Duinen @ Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts (Lobby)
  2. A Voice to Balance the Negative Rhetoric About Refugees — Prof. Jayson Dibble@ Martha Miller Center (First Floor Rotunda)
  3. What is in a Name? Hispanic or Latino? — Prof. Berta Carrasco de Miguel @ Kruizenga Art Museum (Entry Area)
  4. Finding Truth in Fiction — Prof. Susanna Childress @ DePree Art Center (Lobby)
  5. Walking Gregory’s Neighborhood — Prof. Tori Pelz @ DeWitt Center (North Hallway)
  6. It Takes a Village, But Will There Always Be One? — Prof. Joshua Kraut @ Phelps Hall (North Dining Entrance Area)
  7. What Would You Do? — Prof. Scott VanderStoep @ Cook Hall (South Dining Entrance Area)
  8. Fitting In: Our Quixotic Endeavors in a New Home — Prof. Tatevik Gyulamiryan @ Van Wylen Library (Circulation Desk Area)
  9. Climate Change and Global Displacement — Prof. Joanne Stewart @ Schaap Science Center (First Floor, Near Psychology Offices)

From Hate to Hope: The Art of Resilience

A sign taped to the door of the entrance to the DePree Art Gallery warns viewers that what they are about to see is disturbing and horrific. What they are about to see is simply hate-filled and hateful.

But thankfully, that’s not all it is. What the viewer is about to see as they descend into the lower-level gallery is also hope-filled and hopeful. Hate will not have the final say in this space, the viewer will find, because Dr. Heidi Kraus will not let it.

heidi.kraus
Dr. Heidi Kraus, assistant professor of art history, director of the DePree Art Gallery, and curator of Hateful Things|Resilience, stands in front of the 19th century quilts recoded in a contemporary way by African American artist, Sanford Biggers. Photo by Steve Nelson.

From these diametric opposites then, the first exhibit in DePree has opened the academic year at Hope with a continued and much-needed discussion about race in America. Hateful Things|Resilience provides visitors the opportunity to consider our country’s regrettable past and present in regard to race relations, and to move on to an expectant future. “And there is no better time than now to do so,” notes Kraus, referencing the racial tensions that imbued the nation over the past two years from Ferguson, MO, to NFL player Colin Kaepernick, to this year’s presidential election.

Hateful Things|Resilience is really two exhibits in one space: historical artifacts from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, curated by Dr. David Pilgrim, on one-side of the gallery and on the other, a contemporary, fine art response to that memorabilia curated by Kraus. The artistic change from one side of the gallery to the other is immense as upsetting 19th and 20th century ephemera gives way to the permanency of artistic optimism and a call for change.

After seeing artifacts from the Jim Crow Museum two years ago, Kraus, profoundly upset but educationally minded, “knew it was important that there be a contemporary fine arts response to hateful things,” she says. In knowing about a heart-breaking past as well as her own current privilege, Kraus had to respond — needed to respond — in an artful way. With an art historian’s skill set and an educational gallery at her disposal, Kraus worked to secure just the right resilient artworks by African American artists from Hope’s permanent collection to combat Hateful Things from FSU. She also was able to secure two quilts by Sanford Biggers, courtesy of Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. The curator won a huge coup for the exhibit.

“Artists look to the past to inform their work today. Every artist who created these works in Resilience is very well aware of what exists in the other space, in the Hateful Things space,” she says, gesturing past the physically and metaphorically broken partition that divides the gallery. “But they’ve gone beyond that. It’s informed who they are, and they show that hateful things do not have the last word.”

Biggers is a highly renowned interdisciplinary African American artist, and his works in DePree show the defiance of the Underground Railroad via the resilience of contemporary art today. Given to Biggers by descendants of slaves, his quilts were once used as a coded language. Slaves seeking freedom would know if a home was a safe space to stay depending on a quilt’s color and pattern, and in the way in which it was folded on a clothesline.

“And Sanford Biggers recoded those quilts by adding a layer on top of his own,” explains Kraus. “He is directly responding to the original historical context of these items, but he has done so in a deliberately contemporary way by his choice of material and subject matter.

“Artists look to the past to inform their work today. Every artist who created these works in Resilience is very well aware of what exists in the other space, in the Hateful Things space,” she says, gesturing past the physically and metaphorically broken partition that divides the gallery. “But they’ve gone beyond that. It’s informed who they are, and they show that hateful things do not have the last word.”

Kraus is quick to credit other Hope faculty who made Hateful Things|Resilience a team effort and collaborated with her in order to get the full message across with clarity as well as discomfort. Vanessa Greene, director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Lorna Jarvis Hernandez and Dr. Chuck Green from the psychology department, Dr. Dr. Jeanne Petit from the history department, and Dr. Deidre Johnston from the communication department all “walked alongside me in this, and I didn’t want to do them wrong. I wanted to be sure I had my ducks in a row and if we were going to do this at this school, we were going to do it right.”

‘Dr. Kraus, do you know why this means so much?… You are not just focusing on the downtrodden history of the African American but you are also focusing on their resilience.’ Thus the exhibition title.”

So far, the feedback has been nothing but positive. It’s a good reminder to Kraus that the difficult message she envisioned two years ago and worked to teach today was not meant to remain in her own mind and heart but rather it was meant to impact others. Especially Hope students.

“I had a lunch date with Curissa Sutherland-Smith, a junior psych major who is the president of the Black Student Union and just a beautiful soul,” remembers Kraus. “I was telling her how I was struggling with my privilege while putting this exhibit together and she stopped me and asked, ‘Dr. Kraus, do you know why this means so much?… You are not just focusing on the downtrodden history of the African American but you are also focusing on their resilience.’ Thus the exhibition title. She gave that to me, and so much more.”

From the mind and heart of a Hope student to the mind, heart and hands of a Hope professor, the necessary lessons to be learned by Hateful Things|Resilience will remain on display in the DePree Art Gallery until Friday, October 7.