This Friday, April 30, Binghamton University’s Mental Health Outreach Peer Educators (M-HOPE) hosted a Multicultural Art Showcase in collaboration with the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). The event was held in celebration of artistic expression inspired by students’ cultural and personal identities. Attendees were able to visit and participate in the first part of the event, which took place on the Spine from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Then, they were able to view performances on Zoom from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Multicultural Art Showcase this year drew inspiration from the discontinued Art Walks that M-HOPE had hosted in previous years. This year’s event, however, had to adapt in response to a number of challenges, including COVID-19 restrictions and a growing number of remote students. Despite the changes made, members of M-HOPE and the MRC were optimistic and proud to have a variety of diverse student artwork to display. Richie Sebuharara, assistant director of the MRC, said that having both in-person and virtual components did not detract from enthusiasm for the event.
“The Zoom virtual space we’re using this year gives us more choices,” Sebuharara said. “We’re trying to make the best of the current situation with COVID-19, but I actually think it works out quite nicely having the in-person and Zoom options. M-HOPE came to us with the idea for the showcase and it seemed like a really good opportunity to showcase the individuality of different students and their backgrounds.”
The event kicked off with a tabling event on the Spine hosted by M-HOPE interns Paige Kenis, a junior double-majoring in psychology and sociology, and Nicolette Macolino, a senior double-majoring in psychology and art and design. Seated at the front of the Spine, the interns offered students passing by the opportunity to take a look at the event, passed out flyers for the Zoom performances and handed out a variety of goodies including Crayola skin-tone crayons and stress balls emblazoned with wellness mottos. The tabling event also featured a world map that passersby were encouraged to mark their cities of origin on. Small stickers spanned the map as little indicators of places all across the globe that BU students originate from.
Kenis and Macolino encouraged students on the Spine to attend the Zoom, where the main performances of the Multicultural Art Showcase were to be held. At 6 p.m, the virtual gathering opened with a short introduction by Kenis and Macolino about M-HOPE and its mission in providing internships that are focused on mental health service. The organization seeks to spread mental health resources and advocate for awareness and action among the student population, hosting educational events that promote wellness and self-care practices.
The student and club submissions followed, starting with a group submission by BU’s Bangali Student Association. The group displayed a series of paintings created at a Bangali Student Association event honoring the 50th anniversary of the Independence Day of Bangladesh. The paintings, with vibrant and bold colors, depicted the scene of a young boy running on a hill at sunset, waving the flag of Bangladesh as if in victory. Together, the paintings created an expression of collective love on behalf of the Bangali Student Association in honor of the freedom of their home country.
The second submission was sent in by Sulpoong, a group of students learning and performing traditional Korean percussion. They seek to inspire joy in people and to capture the heart and soul of both the players and the audience through their art. The group sent in a recording of six members seated in the Korean Student Center, performing a percussion number that progressed from smooth, deep humming beats to ascending and cascading crescendoes accompanied by chants in Korean. The rousing symphony of sound made for a heart-rousing display of spirit and heart concluding in the resounding ring of a gong.
Another spirited and powerful performance was submitted by the X-Fact’r Step Team, a multicultural dance team at BU. X-Fact’r stands for “Xpressionism of African culture through rhythm,” and the group was formed to educate and spread love for Africana culture through the historically Black tradition of step dance. Their recorded performance featured a member beating out a strong and steady rhythm on a drum, leading the team into an impressively synchronized dance number where noise made by the dancers’ bodies worked in harmony with the beat of the drum. Bouts of silence interspersed the performance, making for striking disruptions of silence every time the team stepped into another number. Their movements were sure, sudden and graceful. The dance culminated in a speech about the beauty of their peoples’ struggle and the necessity of perseverance, followed by a joyful performance to Beyoncé’s “KEYS TO THE KINGDOM.”
Bing Stand-Up was also featured as a performing club. Simrohn Iftekhar, social media chair of Bing Stand-Up and a senior majoring in computer science, performed her stand-up set “Shades of Brown” in a video submission. Her comedy touches on her Bangali-Pakistani background and speaks on the nuances between her different homes in South Asia, including the way her knowledge of language wraps around Bangla and Urdu. Her set was lively and energetic, bringing back memories of in-person acts and stirring up excitement for future performances.
Other submissions from students included self-portraits from Kenis and Macolino, who examined themes of emotion and personal evolution in their work. Another notable submission was sent in by Aadarsh Devkota, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, who explored integrating emotions like joy and longing into his dancing. Janai McKenzie, a senior majoring in psychology, also submitted a striking performance. Her gymnastics routine, set to Beyoncé’s “Freedom,” was a performance of joy and victory expressed through ballet-reminiscent movements. Jasmine Steele, a junior majoring in psychology, performed her original poem “Him.” Steele has been writing poetry since the seventh grade and her writing is crafted carefully and beautifully, invoking vivid imagery and emotion. Alyssa Sommer, a first-year master’s student studying business administration, presented a painting touching on the way beauty norms in society create a duality within the self, where a face without makeup is perceived differently than one with.
The Multicultural Art Showcase concluded with a submission from the Rho Chapter of Latino America Unida, who sent in three paddles created by the members of the fraternity depicting the different parts of Latin America they hailed from and their intermingling cultures.
“This year’s event was pretty different from other years because we’re not able to see the performances, you know, in front of us,” Sebuharara said. “But it was still exciting to be able to see all the student groups perform and do what they do so well.”