A new splash of colour and creativity at Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus is places focus on what it means to have a healthy campus experience.
Over the summer, School of Health & Human Services instructor Matty Hillman pulled together five students for a mural and research project that explored both individual health and campus health. The final result is a new installation in The Pit called “Connections & Intersections” that includes six panels representing different domains of holistic health including social, emotional, physical, cognitive, financial and spiritual.
“We hope it beautifies and makes the stark concrete bare wall more interesting,” says Hillman, who is also a working artist. “But more than that, we hope it intrigues people enough to approach it and read the artist statements to find out a bit more about the process. From that, maybe it inspires dialogue amongst students. It’s nice when art asks the viewer to do something, when it asks them to reflect on their college experience. In this case, what does it mean to have a healthy campus?”
During a muggy week in June, Hillman guided five students from different programs through a process that considered the intersecting positions of gender, ability, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation. In a process led by the students who came from varied backgrounds of artistic experience, the panels were created by Zakeea Al Hanafy, Jason Williams, Phuong Minh Le (Kitty), Tyler Vance and Jeremy Kind.
An instructor in the college’s Human Services programs, Hillman helped with the visioning process and also created the sixth panel. A leader in Selkirk College’s Healthy Campus initiatives, the former youth worker says the students wove together their individual pieces into a visual collection that hits the mark on several levels.
“There is a lot to be said about the process over the product,” says Hillman, who started his formal education at Selkirk College and is a Human Services Diploma Program alumnus. “We have something that is aesthetically pleasing, but it’s also about the journey to get there. We wanted to explore what health meant to us as individuals and then broaden that to the institution itself and how its promoting health within students.”
The panels are connected through basket-woven boarder pieces that represent connections between Selkirk College community members and between campuses throughout the region. The mural wall includes artist statements that provide insight into what each individual student was striving for in their creativity.
Through public art, Hillman hopes the students involved and those that view the pieces feel a connection that goes beyond academic goals.
“Students are not in the classroom in vacuum,” says Hillman, who started teaching at Selkirk College in 2016. “They come from their home life, their families, their own intersecting identities, their hopes and fears. It’s really important that we pay attention to that as teachers. I hope that this can impact enough people that it becomes common to have more art in our campuses. This could spur further projects like this.”
Find out more about Selkirk College’s Healthy Campus initiatives at: selkirk.ca/healthy-campus.