The Student Keepsake Project focused on the memories we bring with Us!
This keepsake project is the brainchild of a NOVA ESL professor, John Kinney. The project demonstrates a diverse body of students, one of NOVA’s strengths. It aims to make international students feel welcome and foster better understandings among students from different cultures. John hopes that the project will ease the isolation and culture shock the international students may experience and promote a sense of community within NOVA’s student body. Participants are ESL students from various NOVA campuses.
Years in the making, John Kinney had participating ESL students share a photograph of a special keepsake they cary with them or hold dear at home and write a composition about these objects and their stories. Once collected, they were sent to artist Jum Jirapan, who visually interpreted the keepsakes in a unifying form of digital art to showcase the memories. Over fifty keepsake artistic memories were created and framed for this exhibition. Each story and art bringing together student’s stories from around the world.
Faustine Coulibaly take a picture of her creative work in the Memories We Bring with US Exhibition. Photo by Britt ConleyAfter a long absence throughout the pandemic, our classes finally began transitioning back to campus and we decided to make this show and combination of both in person and virtual to help accommodate everyone.
As an immigrant, a naturalized citizen, and a former ESL instructor herself, Jum connects deeply with the project and the stories the keepsakes bring. She felt honored to be chosen to interpret and translate the students’ keepsakes and memories into art. Their stories have opened her eyes and heart to the beauty of our similarities and differences. Jum hopes this exhibition will open the eyes and hearts of the audiences the way it does for her. Moreover, she wishes to make the students proud of who they are and where they come from.
Jum is a multidisciplinary artist based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Having experienced the therapeutic power of art firsthand, her career focus grew from artmaking to sharing that creative and self-exploratory experience with others. Jum utilizes art as a tool to open hearts and minds to possibilities and opportunities. She takes great joy in volunteering and engaging with local organizations and communities to empower people through art and education. Jum was a student at NOVA from 2019 to 2020. She studied psychology and studio art en route to a post-graduate program in art therapy. She believes the training and education would help her serve the public better.
The entire exhibition was funded by The NOVA Educational Foundation in cooperation with Northern Virginia Community College, Languages, Arts, and Social Sciences Division, Alexandria.
We were so fortunate to have cccc and cccc from the Foundation! They have been incredibly supportive of our creative community and this particular project highlights our incredible international students who bring their incredible backgrounds, stories and expertise to all of our community campus members.
Stacy Slaten, our 2-D Fine Art professor helped coordinate the exhibition. She explains, “Collaboration moves beyond the power of one to the power of a team. I was fortunate to have been able to work with Professor John Kinney, artist Jum Jirapan, and Fine Arts Studio Assistant, Britt Conley, to create a project that strongly represents to spirit of NOVA Alexandria campus and our students. I feel that collaborative projects are more powerful in that the social element of collaboration can also improve not only the quality of ideas, but can remove barriers to implementing them. As they say, many hands make the burden light. I was thankful to work with this project and see the cross-disciplinary action. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I do! “
Due to the pandemic, our reception was both in person and virtual! We were fortunate enough to have our President, Dr. Anne Kress join us and be able to talk to our in person students and virtual community together.
Our Provost Dr. Hagray, also joined in celebrating our student and faculty efforts. She has been to nearly every art opening we’ve had during her tenure and has an eye for art!
Menal Omer discusses her creative art and story to our virtual audience.
All in all this show was years in the making and had incredible evolution, resulting in framed works that everyone can enjoy. Empowering students is rewarding. Hearing student stories and seeing their creativity is always inspiring!