NORFOLK, Neb. – Over the past year, members of the Student Leadership Association (SLA) at Northeast Community have been looking for opportunities to address diversity on campus in a visible and meaningful way. Now, work is moving forward to display artwork that has been created by students that demonstrates diversity and inclusion in society.
In outlining aspects of its signature project on campus, an SLA communication said, “As Northeast continues to accept new students of all backgrounds, it is essential for us as an institution to go a step further and highlight our wonderful student body with pieces of culture that they can identify with.”
Carissa Kollath, director of student activities, said SLA members decided to hold a contest seeking submissions for diversity murals as part of its signature project on the Norfolk campus. She said the pandemic, unfortunately, impacted the submission process.
“We had a lot of students with great ideas, but due to COVID-19, we didn’t receive as many entries as we had hoped,” Kollath said, “so we have decided to reopen the contest again next year to accept more entries. However, the SLA team did approve submissions from two students who will have their pieces displayed on campus.”
The students, Hannah Stahl, Potter, and Sam Sousek, Prague, were each awarded $200 gift certificates to the College’s Hawks Shop for their submissions.
Stahl said her piece “The Color in Difference” has been designed so that anyone looking at it can make their own assumptions about its meaning.
“What it means to me is that if you look under the groups everyone is placed into, you would see the same thing. We are all people looking to the horizon going on another day,” Stahl said. “We all have struggles, and the symbols around the eye are meant to represent those struggles. The symbol of the jellyfish is my own personal struggle that symbolizes the fact I got through in my hard times.”
Sousek said her “Be Free to Be You” work illustrates his interpretation of being free and defining who a person is.
“The human-like figure is walking away from the darkness and looking to a bright future,” she said. “The darkness is a symbol of hate and anger. The sunset is a sign of walking away from the hate, negativity and toxic relationships. Walking away, you are free to live a life of happiness and joy. In the end you are free to be you.”
Kollath said the SLA would like to partner with the Northeast graphic design program to invite other students within the program to submit diversity mural artwork they can also be considered for placement on campus.
“The students would also like to see local diverse talent take the lead on painting the murals once a selection is made from other submissions,” she said. “The takeaway from having many students participate in this process is that they can all have a better understanding and appreciation of what diversity means in the eyes of their peers.”
The murals will be another demonstration of the diverse cultures at Northeast. A hall of international flags representing the countries of international students who attend the college is located in the College Welcome Center. The United States and Nebraska flags are also represented in the display.
Another notable project by previous student leaders on the Norfolk campus is located in front of the Cox Activities Center. A five-foot long stainless-steel statue of a hawk, with a nearly nine-foot wing span, stands on a three-foot concrete pedestal. It was commissioned by members of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 Student Government Association (SGA), as it is formerly known, as their “signature project.”