Monmouth University announced a new campus-wide art exhibit called Diversity Lives Here: Representation Through Art, a student-led initiative intended to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
The submission prompt on CaFÉ, the online platform being used to accept entries, encourages student artists to “submit work that reflects on identity, diversity, representation, inclusion, power, equity – or to submit work that highlights historical figures who had to fight for the space to share their ideas and work.”
Following the March 1 deadline, submissions will be judged and artwork will be selected to display in various spaces across the Monmouth University campus. Some of the potential sites include the Student Center, the dining hall, the library, and various academic buildings and residence halls.
“Psychological science has told us that people feel that they belong in a community if they see themselves represented,” explained Antonio Bulzomi, the senior psychology student behind the initiative.
“Diversity efforts can often be performative, but I’m intending to do this as something that will better the community as a whole and give people the opportunity to see themselves represented and celebrated.”
“Initiatives like this one, especially when they are student-driven, are so critical to building the type of
community we strive for here on campus: a community that is compassionate, responsive to our students’ experiences, and whose physical environment is more reflective of its constituents. This project in particular is one that reminds us that we all can play a role in encouraging important changes on campus,” said Zaneta Rago-Craft, Ed.D, Director of the Intercultural Center and Advisor to the President on Diversity and Inclusion.
“Creating a diverse and inclusive environment is essential to the university’s expansion, advancement, and growth as an institution,” said A’Liah Moore, a graduate student studying interactive digital media. “A message and action of this nature represents a call for unity, which is particularly meaningful for those who have been marginalized or perceived to be different.”
Bulzomi applied for funding for the project through the Diversity Innovation Grant (DIG) program, which is coordinated by the Intercultural Center, the Office of the Provost, and a review committee of faculty and staff volunteers from the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.
Bulzomi described walking around campus and discussing student spaces on campus with his peers during an exercise in one of his classes last spring. “The main takeaway was that it was not representative of the students, the faculty, the staff, the people who spend time on campus,” he explained.
After receiving an email about the DIG program, he decided to apply with the intention of using the funding to create spaces devoted to diversity and representative art. Bulzomi spent the summer working with Lisa Dinella, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the Program in Gender and Intersectionality Studies, writing for the grant, which he was eventually awarded.
“Realistically, I was kind of just in the right place at the right time,” said Bulzomi. “I was in the class, so I took a walk on campus and was able to listen to my classmates who come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives and views on things that I might not have thought about. When walking past Bey Hall, I would just see all of the older white men in the building and not think twice about it. With their insight, I was open to the possibility of making positive change.”
“Last semester was a lot of planning, so I’ve been meeting a lot with Facilities Management, the Center for the Arts, deans around campus, and Dr. Z from the Intercultural Center. This semester is very much the execution of it all,” explained Bulzomi. “Everybody’s been incredibly supportive and receptive of my ideas to help point me in the right direction.”
Although submissions are open to college students across the nation, Bulzomi encourages Monmouth students to submit their artwork to be displayed across campus. “Keep an eye out for opportunities to judge the artwork because I want everybody’s voices heard and accounted for,” he added.
“Outside of Monmouth, it would be really awesome if something like this was to exist on other campuses or just other spaces. The world is extremely complex and there’s a lot that we don’t see in our physical space, so it would be exciting to have more representation,” Bulzomi concluded.