University of La Verne staff and faculty introduced “An Artful Reframing,” a collaborative effort to reflect on the University’s history and shine a light on previously underrepresented voices, before about 25 community members in the Campus Center Ballroom Monday, with 19 more who joined via Zoom.
“An Artful Reframing” displays art paired with research to express a more in-depth look into the history of the University. Participants in this multifaceted project include academic researchers, artists and others who plan to share various academic papers and artistic works to show the diversity in the University’s heritage and identity.
The project includes research by Allyson Brantley, assistant professor of history; Niki Elliott, professor of education; Sylvia Mac, associate professor of education; Benjamin Jenkins, assistant professor of history; Felicia Beardsley, professor of anthropology; Anne Collier, curator of the Cultural and Natural History Collections; Placido Gomez, associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Law; Elaine Padilla, associate professor of philosophy and religion; Al Clark, professor of humanities; Jon Hall, La Verne alumnus and historian; and Jason Neidleman, professor of political science.
The project committee includes Juan Regalado, chief student affairs officer; Dion Johnson, director of art galleries and professor of art and art history; Aracely Gutierrez, director of Title III Grant and First Generation and Peer Mentoring programs; Raúl Pérez, assistant professor of sociology; Zandra Wagoner, University chaplain and assistant professor of religion; Brantley, Burrel, Clark, Jenkins, and Neidleman.
“This is a moment for us to look at our own history,” University President Devorah Lieberman said during the Monday event. “It’s time for us as a University to look back at our own institutional beliefs and to question what’s fact… what’s false, what’s right, what’s wrong.”
Lieberman reminded the audience that the University, originally affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, holds current values and beliefs that were first embedded in the church.
“The heritage of our institution reflects the legacy of both exclusion and inclusion of racism and anti-racism,” Neidleman said.
Niedleman said to do such a rigorous reflection of any institution with history that includes trails of marginalization and white supremacy will be difficult.
Lieberman said it is our moral responsibility to have these difficult conversations anyway.
Neidleman led the conversation about how “An Artful Reframing” can provide a platform to have these conversations and explained how the research would fit in context to this project, which is funded by a grant from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education.
His presentation emphasized the definitions of “history” and “heritage.” He also listed the members and titles of the research contributing to this project.
“Our hope is to recover some voices and perspectives that may have been previously neglected or suppressed,” Neidleman said. “And to consider the reasons these voices and perspectives have been neglected or suppressed.”
Neidleman said the goal of the “Reframing” is not to warp the University’s history in any way. The goal is to simply tell ULV’s story in a way that is more inclusive of groups that are a part of our history but overlooked.
For example, Mac and Elliot’s “Am I good enough to be here? A photovoice project documenting voices of differently abled students at ULV” will document the increase in enrollment of students with disabilities or neurodivergence, writing them into ULV’s history.
Alexandra Burrel, chief of the Diversity and Inclusion Office, said she led a few focus groups to hear from a large demographic of students, alumni and Board of Trustees members about their La Verne experience.
“One of the questions that we asked within the focus group was, ‘Where do you see yourself being a part of this community, and a part of the heritage and the culture moving forward?,’” Burrel said. “To hear some of the words, to hear some of the descriptions that were given, and the experiences that they tied to that brought a new light for me.”
“An Artful Reframing” incorporates art into this effort, an idea brought up by Burrel. Art often integrates culture, history and heritage, and the “Reframing” committee agreed it was the perfect blend.
Johnson is overseeing the art aspect of the project and introduced the different exhibits that will be displayed throughout the year.
“It is a four-part series creating artifacts sometimes through the form of written research and others which may include photography and other elements,” Johnson said. “Each exhibition will have one visual artist.”
The West Gallery, located on the Campus Center’s second floor, will display the artist and researcher in collaboration.
Currently on display is an art piece by Japanese artist Kyoco Taniyama, which appreciates citrus industry workers in the surrounding La Verne Areas. The sculpture consists of wooden crates created by the artist, a map surrounding La Verne, and a gramophone record player.
The sculpture is paired with Brantley’s research project titled “Which Roads Lead to an HSI? The Palomares Colonia, Demographic Shifts, and the Transformation of the University of La Verne.”
Her research aims to spotlight Latinx voices to grasp how the University of La Verne came to be a Hispanic-serving institution. A short excerpt from Brantley’s research is displayed showcasing a bit of the history of Hispanic influence in La Verne.
The display on the wall focuses on Roman Morales, an alumnus who graduated from La Verne College in 1956. His family moved to the La Verne area in hopes of finding a job in the citrus industry. Brantley describes his story and the immigration of other Mexican-American families.
Taniyama’s sculpture incorporates maps of La Verne during that time period. It encompasses what La Verne was like during the time that Brantley focused on in her research.
In an effort to further share the research projects in collaboration with “An Artful Reframing,” the spring 2023 faculty lecture series will present one of the participating works every Tuesday at noon in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom, as well as three during the remainder of this fall semester.
Anabel Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edith Gomez can be reached at email@example.com.