November 08, 2019
New as they are to McDaniel, Art professor Chloe Irla’s First Year Seminar (FYS) students are well acquainted with injustice, prejudice and indignities. They reject the way many things are in the society they were born into — and they used their art to build awareness of the issues and spark changes around the globe.
Art on the Edge, Irla’s FYS class, gathered their art and marched across campus on a bright, sunny November morning. They stopped in Memorial Plaza, right in front of Hoover Library, to talk about the issue their art represents.
Fighting back tears, Peace Odumeru delivers an emotional plea with her “What Would It Take to Find Me?” posters that weep for all the missing “sisters, mothers, aunts, children” who just seem to disappear without a trace or even a search party looking for them. Sofie Woytovich wants everyone to know that “No Means No” regardless of how a person dresses. And Montrel Garrison with his oversized cardboard pistol, is just plain sick of gun violence.
“Everything doesn’t always have to resort to violence,” the freshman from Baltimore said. “In Baltimore too many can’t make it past their 16th or 17th birthday because no one knows how to resolve their differences without using guns. And guns kill.”
For Tristan Webb, drivers wielding cell phones to text or call cause far too many crashes and deaths; while Victoria Hilton, pushing a wheelchair with a poster declaring that “Healthcare is a human right,” wants everyone to be able to afford to go to a doctor.
Three-foot high arms and hands reaching for the sky signal Cam Banks’ protest against police brutality, telling everyone “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is the only way for Black men to survive. Gentrification is a problem in Ciara Hovell’s D.C. neighborhood, Ava Drury brings attention to human trafficking with her poster about the Korean Comfort Women during World War II and Rayelle Lee displays a big blue whale, one of the creatures affected by polluted oceans.
Irla’s FYS Art on the Edge explores how contemporary artists make work in response to issues related to identity, society and community.
“We talk about how throughout history, artists have contributed to broader cultural dialogues through creative practices,” Irla says. “I wanted to conduct this Issues March project with this group in particular because of how active their generation has been in participating in modern protest movements — March for Our Lives, Women's March, Black Lives Matter, March for Science and others.”
The class proved Irla’s point with the art they proudly showed off as they marched across campus. Mariama Mohammed held her “My Hair is Professional” poster high, Lamar Simpson’s packed-with-prisoners cardboard jail was wrapped around his waist against mass incarceration, and Jordan Newman wants to bring back human decency, asking everyone to “Love Thy Neighbor.”
Dylan Moran’s “Bad Drip” tells us to reverse global warming and stop the polar ice cap from melting, Leah Wilder’s skeletal “Skinny Enough” portrays body image ideals in the media, and India Thomas and Dellaney Georgiana use rainbows to speak for LGBTQ+ rights.
Even Irla joined the march, carrying her A-B-C $ blocks above a placard hanging from her shoulders that read “We pay $949/month for Child Care.”
“I wanted this project to provide a platform for students to voice their concerns about the world they're growing up in, and learn that they can create artworks that can be participatory and reach a broad audience outside of a traditional gallery or museum setting,” she says. “And I am so proud of what they did.”