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Artwork brings students, cultures together

2/28/2014

ELIZABETH GOLDEN

ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

With a mix of students from China, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., Fort Hays State University crossed cultural boundaries through the class Global Environmental Issues.

Biology professor Greg Farley took his class to view the "In the Name of Love" art exhibition at the Hays Arts Council.

The art exhibit, organized by Jana's Campaign and FHSU's Leadership 310 class, strives to raise awareness about gender-based violence.

Farley asked his class to pick two pieces of art that stand out, and then pair with someone from a different culture to discuss the pieces.

"The emotional side is a good way to break the typical cultural boundaries," Farley said. "We all grieve, we all fear, we all share a lot of emotions, and we have a lot more in common than we do differences."

Global Environmental Issues is an interdisciplinary class, which explores social, cultural and religious issues.

As a scientist, Farley said he has interest in art, and always has taken his class to view art, but this is the first year he decided to cross cultural boundaries.

"There was one day (after taking students to an art gallery)," he said, "I saw a couple students pairing up, and it occurred to me to ask them to cross cultural boundaries. This isn't so they can talk culture or politics. It's just to look at something and say, 'That is beautiful.'"

Farley attended the opening night Feb. 8, and said it affected him in a profound way.

"This is intensely emotional and powerful art," he said. "What really affected me is I never saw Christie (Brungardt) present to a group. I really respect what she and her husband (Curt) are doing for their foundation (Jana's Campaign), but to see a parent stand up in front of a group of people and say 'my daughter was murdered and I'm going to do something so your child doesn't have the same fate,' I'm moved by that."

Brenda Meder, director of the HAC, was thrilled by the opening night turnout as well as the continuous amounts of people she sees walk in every day.

"People are really impacted and appreciate (the exhibit)," she said. "It allows the message, the concern, the issue, to be spoken in an alternative language. It puts art in the category of being a universal language."

Alysia Schwartz, a junior from Grinnell, said she appreciates the power and message within the art.

"Being from a small town, there's not a lot of diversity," she said. "So you don't see a lot of cultures. I like that here we're not just seeing, we're interacting."

Tyler Hayes, senior, was in the military for 20 years. He saw domestic violence and human trafficking situations on a frequent basis.

"Human trafficking is very prevalent in Thailand, where my wife is from," he said.

"Families sell their children. Domestic violence is more common among military folks because of the stress. Now eight times out of 10, the military hammers the individual, but it is occasionally swept under the rug."

Rachel Strong, junior from Colorado, was emotionally moved by a painting titled "The Beating Goes On," which depicts the face of a woman who has been subjected to a beating.

Strong's stepmother works in a home for battered women.

"It's sad that this really happens," Strong said. "I know these people. I've interacted with these people. I know this is a reality for some people."

The exhibit will be on display until March 8 at Hays Arts Center gallery.