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Truth, Acceptance, and Celebration Through Art

Student winners of the We All Belong exhibit
June 18, 2020

UMD "We All Belong Art Show" 2020 winners.

...Creating a positive and inclusive campus climate for all by advancing equity, diversity and social justice.

On Tuesday March 3, 2020, UMD held a reception for the "We All Belong Art Show" in UMD's Griggs Center. Talented students, faculty, and staff submitted art, poetry, and spoken word to highlight one of three categories: diversity, inclusivity, or civility. The work displayed showcased UMD’s welcoming campus climate and helped strengthen the community by celebrating its differences. The winning artwork will be displayed in the UMD Kathryn A. Martin library in the 2020-21 school year.

Student Winners - Gold Awards

ART: Melissa Peirson entered in the inclusivity category. See her artwork on this web page. Here's an excerpt from her artist statement: "I have Trichotillomania... It is an obsessive-compulsive disorder where one has irresistible urges to pull out their hair... 

Melissa Peirson's artwork

Melissa Peirson's artwork

I started pulling in fourth grade which was around the time my parents were going through a divorce... Rand Phillips, a student, was one of the first people at UMD that I confided in about my Trich. This past semester, he decided to base a school project on how people physically show their emotions and feelings... People like Rand help me quiet my inner anxious thoughts and allow me to show up as my authentic self. I’m forever thankful for his open mind." Melissa is a public health major and uses she/her pronouns.

POETRY: Mia Martinez entered the poem Tongue Untamed in the diversity category. (Read the full poem here.) Here's an excerpt.

"when they said,
'become Americans or leave the only home you have,'
we were Americans.
until, somehow, we weren’t."

Here's her artist statement: " 'Go back to Mexico if you want to speak Mexican.' It's a phrase that has been thrown at myself and my people for longer than I can remember. Hearing it used to make me feel ashamed of my ethnicity, my skin, my hair. Now, I know better. I embrace my heritage and my identity as a Chicanx woman. This piece is representative of the shift that I've had in my perception of my culture." Mia is a theater and psychology double major and uses she/her pronouns.

SPOKEN WORD: Rikkia Walker entered in the diversity category. (Watch her performance here.) Here's an excerpt from her performance:

"They took my naturally wide hips and put a price tag upon them,
then spread the lies that I am a thief.
They tried to drown me, but I am not ebony, I do not sink.
I am brown skin girl.
Gliding and surfing through the waves."

Here's her artist statement: "I believe that diversity is not just important but essential to the growth of any community. It is the fact that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences that challenge us to think in different ways. It is healthy to be humbled by the fact that your way may not always be the best way." Rikkia is a communication major and uses she/her pronouns.

Student Winners - Silver Awards

ART: Madalina Kelner entered in the diversity category. See her artwork on this web page. Here's her artist statement: "I am an adoptee from Romania. I've always been incredibly passionate about artwork.  Every person who is adopted has an individual experience going through college. Mine has been very positive, and I feel very lucky to be where I am.

Pottery by John Thode

Pottery by John Thode

I want every adoptee to use their college experience to discover who they are, follow their dreams, and find a field of flowers in their heart, blooming." Madalina is a graphic design major and uses she/her pronouns.

ART: John Thode entered in the inclusivity category. See his artwork on this web page. Here's an excerpt from his artist statement: "This piece is titled Kindness. This ceramic is known as a 'face pot.' The colors represent what society can throw at all of us throughout our lives... things that impact us in ways that affect us profoundly... We have the ability to impact others by what we say, by what we put inside the minds of others. This face pot is interactive, in that you, the viewer, can take a note card from inside the pot, read it, and respond by writing an act of kindness onto another note card and drop it inside... a note that has the potential to say we all belong." John is a fine arts major and uses he/him pronouns.

POETRY: Riss Leitzke entered the poem, We are Trees, Trees are Us in the diversity category. (Read the poem here.) Here's an excerpt.

"All people have different abilities
But… people are looking each other down
Why is that?
We are trees, trees are us."

Here's their artist statement: "I realized that when I was in wilderness for solo time for about an hour something eyes opening when I looked at trees and they just spoke to me that, ”we are trees, trees are us.” Do people realize that? My poem is about the two different perspectives of how people look at nature vs. how people look at other people. This is about acceptance and no one is perfect. People and nature are the same things in many ways. Here's how. I see things more than people do, but I am DeafBlind. Isn't that ironic?" Riss is an environmental and outdoor education major and uses they/them pronouns.

Madalina Kelner's painting

Madalina Kelner's painting

Poetry: Liza Woods entered in the diversity category. (Read the poem here.) Here's an excerpt.

"My existence is ambivalent,
And their past trauma I hold within.
Others are vigilant
In pointing out the ambiguity of my kin."

Here's her artist statement: "I wrote this piece for a sonnet project in my Women In Cross-Cultural Perspective class. This specific sonnet is one of three that I wrote, and it is meant to connect my personal experiences with the themes in the book Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community by Brenda J. Child. Furthermore, this sonnet addresses the history behind who I am as a biracial woman and the feelings of ambiguity, confusion, and marginality that often come along with being biracial." Liza is an anthropology major and uses she/her pronouns.

SPOKEN WORD: Morgan Wittman entered in the inclusivity category. Her Spoken Word entry is a collection of people connected to UMD using American Sign Language to tell the story of the song "This is Me," by songwriters Benj Pesek and Justin Paul. Because of copyright issues, UMD is unable broadcast the video. Here's Morgan's artist statement: "The song 'This Is Me' is an anthem of acceptance and self empowerment. This video demonstrates confidence and being proud of who you are. The video features students and faculty at UMD as well as deaf members of the community. It focuses on the inclusion of all people, no matter hearing or deaf. Deafness should not be viewed as a disability, but rather an alternative form of communication. With the help of ASL on campus we are able to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf world." Morgan is a public health major and uses she/her pronouns.

Detail of Madalina Kelner's's painting.

Detail of Madalina Kelner's artwork. Silver Award

Student Winners - Bronze Awards

See the work: Poetry Bronze: Jenessa Iverson, Untitled  |  Poetry Bronze: Hina Durrani, We Belong Here   |   Student Artwork Bronze

ART: Ayooluwateso Coker (she/her) is a water resource sciences major. She entered in the diversity category.
ART: Morrisa Dahl (she/her) is a sociology and psychology double major. She entered in the diversity category.
ART: TJ Hillman (he/him) is a graphic design and marketing majors. He entered in the diversity category.
ART: Leigh Nelson (she/her) is a master of education majors. She entered in the diversity category.
ART: Mumtaz Salad (she/her) is a graphic design major. She entered in the inclusivity category.
ART: Clara St. Martin 
(she/her) is an elementary and special education majors. She entered in the civility category.
POETRY: Hina Durrani (she/her) is a biomedical sciences majors. She entered in the inclusivity category.
POETRY: Jenessa Iverson (she/her) is a musical theater and Hispanic studies double major. She entered in the diversity category.

Faculty/Staff Submissions

Judges Choice for Staff award:
   Rachel Gilbertson (she/her), Employee Health & Wellbeing Center, Inclusivity: A Welcoming Campus
Staff submissions:
Jennifer Berges (she/her), Office of Development, Diversity on Campus
R.B. Brooks (they/them), Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Inclusivity: A Welcoming Campus

Judges Choice for Faculty award:
   Ladona Tornabene, Ph.D., MCHES (she/her), Applied Human Sciences, Diversity on Campus
Faculty submissions:
Linda LeGarde Grover (she/her), American Indian Studies, Diversity on Campus
LeeAnn Myers (she/her), Office of Development, Inclusivity: A Welcoming Campus
Paul Ranelli (he/him), Pharmacy, Diversity on Campus
Cheryl Reitan (she/her), Marketing and Public Relations, Civility: Anti-bullying
Rebecca M. Webster (she/her), American Indian Studies, Diversity on Campus

Banner photo (above): UMD students Rikkia Walker, Liza Woods, Claire St. Martin, Ayooluwateso Coker, Riss Leitzke, Madalina Kelner, Mumtaz Salad, and Melissa Peirson.

Poetry Gold: Mia Martinez, Tongue Untamed
Spoken Word Poetry Gold: Rikkia Walker, My Skin Glows
Poetry Silver: Riss Leitzke, We are Trees, Trees are Us
Poetry Silver: Liza Wood, Untitled
Spoken Word Poetry Silver, Morgan Wittman
Poetry Bronze: Jenessa Iverson, Untitled
Poetry Bronze: Hina Durrani, We Belong Here
Student Artist Statements Bronze
Student Artwork Bronze
Faculty/Staff Artist Statements
Faculty/Staff Artwork
Staff Spoken Word video: Cheryl Reitan, That is Unacceptable
See All Work Here

This story was written by UMD student Bailey Jacobson, who is double-majoring in English and writing studies. Bailey works with Cheryl Reitan in University Marketing and Public Relations.