By Caden Wilson
Under the guidance of Jillian Dickson, visiting assistant professor of art and design, a group of students planned and pieced together and art exhibit entitled “Reaching Across the Aisle” with the intention of starting conversation about the multiple deadly shootings in the past year. It will remain in place through the planned national student walk-out.
Seventeen yellow school chairs line the sidewalk just south of Clack. Each one displays the name and age of one of the students or faculty killed at Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland. Closer to the library, a pair of dining room chairs display the names of Diva Davis and James Eric Davis Sr., who were shot and killed in CMU’s Campbell Hall.
Dickson contacted the campus maintenance department for assistance in locating and procuring the materials necessary for the memorial but stressed the importance of student decision-making. All major aspects of the art piece were agreed upon by the student artists, with simplicity being the key element, according to Dickson.
One of the most important elements of the exhibit is the potential for inspiring politically-minded talk as mass shootings and gun control take the stage of public interest.
“I hope that comfortable conversations among like-minded people are as prevalent as the challenging conversations,”said Dickson. “Conversations will help young adults figure out what kind of future they want, not their parents, family neighborhood, or even their friends.”
It is not the intention of anyone who was a part of the project to promote a political stance. Instead, the artists hope that people who view their memorial to the shooting victims will form their own viewpoints.
“I think this is an important subject matter to college life for two reasons,” Dickson said. “Students are increasingly more aware of and interested in mental health. Mental health is a significant topic when discussing gun control. College is a time where many students participate in democracy for the first time in their lives. They are voters. They are activists.”
“I hope that people are emotionally effected by it and see the names on the chairs,” said Shaw.
“We need to humanize the people on the chairs because if we do that, people are more apt to talk and work to fix the problem.”
Although the memorial is intended for students and area residents, Shaw hopes that the combined messages from survivors of the events and activists will spark greater public interest.
Just as the title says, the artists hope that elected officials will reach across the aisle and put aside political differences to come up with a permanent solution to the problem at hand.
“I believe that young adults have the most passion and drive to make a difference.” Said Allison Henry (‘20)
“I hope people realize that it’s ok to have an opinion and it’s ok to talk about current events and your personal stance on political topics.” Said Henry.
“We need people to stop being selfish and realize that this isn’t a political debate. These are children’s lives. People are dying,” Shaw said.
“It’s insane to me that people are talking about it like it’s another law. It’s not another law; it’s a problem.
“I don’t care where you stand on the political spectrum and you don’t care enough to talk about this to change this, that you’re a selfish person. Something has to be done. The debate shouldn’t be whether or not something has to be done, it should be about what has to be done.”