New exhibit amplifies student voices, promotes art and advocacy

November 8, 2023

Eleven Dearborn Wolverines have work in “Respond/Resist/Rethink.” The tri-campus exhibit runs now through Dec. 8.

Photo of pencil on paper of "Embrace Humanity, Eradicate Homelessness"
The pencil-on-paper piece, “Embrace Humanity, Eradicate Homelessness” by UM-Dearborn student Regina Marie Arriola is one of 82 works featured in the exhibit “Respond/Resist/Rethink.”

On the city street, a man experiencing homelessness attempted to raise money through selling newspapers. Regina Marie Arriola, a homeless coalition volunteer, saw how crowds walked by, avoiding eye contact and making comments about drug use. 

“He was raising bus fare to get to work. The people walking by didn’t know his story, but made a lot of assumptions,” says Arriola, an engineering undergrad who worked with homeless populations during a 2023 Alternative Spring Break in Cincinnati. “At the coalition center, I heard personal stories on how people became homeless: mental illness, divorce and things like that. We might not want to believe it, but homelessness could happen to any of us.”

Photo of UM-Dearborn senior Regina Marie Arriola
Regina Marie Arriola

The experience stayed with the UM-Dearborn senior. And, with permission, she drew one of the shelter residents in an effort to get others to see his humanity. The pencil-on-paper piece, “Embrace Humanity, Eradicate Homelessness” is one of 82 works featured in the exhibit “Respond/Resist/Rethink.”

Supported by the U-M Arts Initiative, the partnership across all three campuses features art created by U-M students — 11 from UM-Dearborn — in conjunction with the Arts & Resistance theme semester. The exhibit features reflections on oppression, free speech, societal expectations of beauty, and marginalized people, expressed through photographs, paintings, textiles, videos, posters and more.

UM-Dearborn Stamelos Gallery Center Curator Laura Cotton says it’s the first time a collective art exhibit combined the talents of Wolverines across the three campuses. The exhibit, which runs now through Dec. 8, has art displayed in four galleries. 

At UM-Dearborn, works are showcased on the wall outside of the Stamelos Gallery Center in the Mardigan Library to share it with the campus community. The exhibit is also on display at Riverbank Arts at UM-Flint, and in the Stamps Gallery and Duderstadt Center Gallery at UM-Ann Arbor. Each venue will host an opening reception; UM-Dearborn’s will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Stamelos, which is located on the first floor of the Mardigian Library.

UM-Dearborn senior Brianna Bryant
Brianna Bryant

Cotton says each exhibit has a variety of student pieces from Flint, Ann Arbor and Dearborn in an effort to amplify the diversity of Wolverine experiences.

“Go to each of the galleries and see the student work. You will be impressed. The displayed student works at our venue range in themes from human rights to climate justice to the importance of hope within our daily lives,” she says. “I love how this exhibit builds community and connects students' voices. We come from different backgrounds and experiences, and putting them together adds to the impact of this exhibit.”

UM-Dearborn senior Brianna Bryant’s work “Acceptance Letter” hangs in UM-Ann Arbor’s Duderstadt Center Gallery. The first in her family to go to college, the Detroit resident shares how she’s experienced microaggressions, food insecurity, housing insecurity and transportation concerns on her journey to a college degree.

“When you get that acceptance letter, it is so exciting,” says Bryant, who works as a student employee in the Center for Social Justice and Inclusion. “You have so much spirit and don’t know about the challenges ahead of you. I want to share my story to make students aware of challenges they may experience. And I want people with power to make changes.”

First-year UM-Dearborn student Alyssa Howard created an acrylic painting titled “Break the Past” that includes images reflecting on historic events like the Holocaust and the murder of George Floyd. “I choose events from history that everyone could recognize or connect to personally,” says Howard, whose work is at the Stamelos. “I wanted to show how much history truly does repeat itself, while also leaving a tiny piece of the canvas open to the idea of how the world would be a much different place if none of these events occurred to begin with.”

Bryant says there is power in seeing art that represents lived experiences and she’s proud to contribute to an exhibit that includes a variety of voices.

“We are only here for four or so years — but art lives on,” says Bryant, who will graduate in December. “Art is a universal language that promotes communication, bridges differences and creates change. And I’m here for it.”