Support student artists as they support the Rice community
When the massive tents known as Provisional Campus Facilities were first constructed on the Rice campus, the South college courtyard suddenly looked a bit alien — a literal sign of the times. Those once foreboding white tents have since been transformed, however, into canvases for compelling visual art, and the once downtrodden courtyard surrounding them into a colorful playground, thanks to the Moody Center for the Arts’ “Creative Interventions” initiative. This project has combined creativity and innovation from students and professional artists alike to give us all an opportunity to celebrate everything that makes our Rice and Houston communities special as we collectively struggle with uncertainty.
The Moody Center understands the role that art can play in this trying time — it can be cathartic, uniting and comforting as the pandemic rages on. Through Moody’s public arts initiative, Rice Public Art, campus has grown even more beautiful and engaging than before. Many individuals in the Rice community have provided opportunities for togetherness through art — an opportunity hardly anyone can take for granted these days.
Rice students who sing, dance, improvise, act and perform in any capacity have had a key component of their art — an audience — become a threat to public health. Yet, they have still been finding ways to practice their art and bring it to the community. Rice Theater director Christina Keefe knew her students’ season was not going to look remotely like normal, but by intentionally choosing a play in which social distance is part and parcel of its plot, Rice Theater produced “The Importance of Being Earnest” with safety firmly in mind, without deviating too much from the classic script. Members of the improvisational comedy group Spontaneous Combustion have produced a podcast on the fly to continue spreading laughter across campus, and Shepherd students have brought their concerts outdoors. Rather than recording or streaming their annual cultural showcase in its traditional format of live performances, the Rice Black Student Association filmed, edited and released its first Soul Night film highlighting Black experiences during the 2000s. Although it would have been easy to put performances on pause, students have worked hard to make their art accessible and safe.
Visual artists have also continued to create and have evolved their art to fit the needs of the moment. Student-run Sleepy Cyborg Gallery, for example, kicked off the year with “Quaranzine,” a dual delivery showcase of student-made zines aiming to comment on the current politicization of the U.S. Postal Service. Earlier this year, ASTR* Magazine pivoted from physical to virtual with their website, and is currently open to submissions for their upcoming issue inspired by the pandemic and ongoing protests. The Rice Women’s Resource Center has brought their zine, Engender, to a virtual format, ensuring that students’ thematic art and poetry submissions can still be enjoyed while the center remains closed. And a number of Rice students have turned their craft into a business. Take Jones College senior Fernanda Lago’s laser-cut earrings, Wiess College sophomore Mb Usua’s handmade jewelry, and our own art director and Sid Richardson College senior Tina Liu, who has been donating profits from her accessory store, tinastinys, to The Afiya Center and Restoring Justice.
We also appreciate the faculty members who have taken time out of their busy days to thoughtfully and creatively address the demands and limitations imposed on students by the pandemic, both physical and emotional, when making space for student art. When Baker College Magister Luis Duno-Gottberg noticed students’ need for artistic expression as a way to process their emotions, he answered the call with PANDEMIA, an outdoor art exhibit that provides windows into students’ quarantine experiences through photography.
With all of this art so accessible, the onus now falls upon students to engage with it. We often take for granted the buffet of work and media that is available to us. Not only are we lucky to be surrounded by creativity, but in the relatively isolated, bleak world of the pandemic, art provides a rare opportunity for connection and imagination. Throughout the pandemic, we have unconsciously found solace in art — through movies, music, media arts, online festival streaming and infinitely more. Yet, we underestimate the amount of work that goes into student art. Student artists have to navigate a complex set of relationships and space and material arrangements, most of the time with little to no payment. Student art, then, thrives on audiences — us.
Disclaimer: Tina Liu is the Thresher’s art director and a member of the editorial board. Ella Feldman is an editor of ASTR* Magazine.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Rishab Ramapriyan, Ivanka Perez, Amy Qin, Elizabeth Hergert, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Tina Liu.
More from The Rice Thresher
Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.
This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.
In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.