Southeast Texas art educators showcase resiliency through art exhibition at LU

For the first time, art educators across the Southeast Texas region gathered at the LU Dishman Art Museum on Tuesday, July 19 to celebrate resiliency. Organized in partnership by the LU Department of Art & Design and the LU Center for Resiliency, the “Bounce Back: Art Making & Resiliency” exhibition encompasses the art work of eight Region 5 art educators that, through artmaking strategies, are exploring issues of resiliency, rebuilding, climate change, social justice and the pandemic.

As a part of the “Bounce Back” programming, the two departments recently hosted the inaugural Social-Emotional Artistic Learning Camp where preservice art education students instructed campers in artmaking that explores themes of resiliency. Dr. Joana Hyatt, associate professor of art education and curator for the exhibition, said that a few of the pieces for the show also were pulled from SEAL camp.

“Resiliency is a big, complexed concept and it doesn’t have just one meaning and that’s the great thing about it. These artists have interpreted what resiliency means to them and if you look around at each of the art pieces, they’ve done that through using symbols, colors and themes,” Hyatt said. “My preservice art education students Katrina Whitfield, Sheila Cantu and Alexya LaFleur are the ones who developed the guided questions and activities in the exhibition brochure, again, to engage the community when looking at each art piece. Again, to get them thinking about their own meaning of resiliency.”

On the back of a colorful bi-fold brochure, “Pick a Piece,” “Do It Yourself!” and “Share it with the Community!” are listed as interactive activities that allow exhibition guests to engage with the art pieces.

Cantu describes the “Share it with the Community” activity as a paper cutout of a tree just under 6 feet tall pinned to the wall on the second floor of the art museum. Guests are encouraged to draw a symbol, write down a poem or quote that embodies their own personal meaning of resiliency and pin it to the tree.

“I’m most excited to see people contribute to the tree we have on the wall because the purpose of it is for people to express what they think when they hear the word resiliency,” Cantu said. “Put a quote, draw a picture or even a phrase that pops into your mind and then pin it to the tree and in the end, everyone in the community that comes to the show will see their own work reflected here on the tree. It’s almost like a collaborative art piece while we also are nurturing the tree and helping it to grow.” 

portrait of trigger
"Portrait of Trigger or Forgive, Forget and Move On"

LaFleur chimed in, “For me, resiliency means teamwork and when I was creating my portion of the questions and activities, I wanted it to be very kinetic. You can see people doing the activities and it makes other people want to join in –– we’re doing this together as a community. All of the art pieces are impressive and I’m really glad to see them displayed.”

The exhibition brochure also highlights the litany of natural disasters impacting the Southeast region including Hurricane Harvey in fall 2018, Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019, Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020, and a Texas winter storm in 2021, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think this show is really important because it unites our community through all of the tragedies that we’ve gone through and that’s why I really wanted to do the tree activity for the exhibition,” Whitfield said. “It’s kind of like creating a mural in the moment of what ‘bouncing back’ means to us.”

Exhibition artists include art educators at all levels of Region 5 –– junior colleges, high school, middle

"Return of the Flying Bandana"

school and some art faculty from LU. Among them is LU alum Robert “Woody” Barton, an art educator at Vidor Middle School whose interpretation of resiliency culminated into two mixed media art pieces themed around American country musician Willy Nelson.

“I saw Willy Nelson in concert and he’s such an inspirational singer to me because he covers all genres –– jazz, country, blues –– he does it all. ‘Trigger’ is Willy Nelson’s guitar, his most valuable possession, and he played it until the point that it wore out,” Barton said. “That was my main inspiration because he’s kept ‘Trigger’ until it was worn down and he’s had to rebuild it several times and reimagine its appearance. To me, that signifies resiliency.” 

The “Bounce Back: Art Making & Resiliency” exhibition will be on display until August  6 in the Lamar University Dishman Art Museum. Hyatt said the Department of Art & Design hopes to host the exhibition again next summer on a much larger scale.

“I’m hoping that the audience sees that this community is resilient and this community is strong. I’m also hoping that this exhibition helps to strengthen their resolve –– art is a part of this community, it’s a part of our voices and they can contribute to that,” Hyatt said. “It’s a variety of different levels of art educators and we are hoping to do this again and just keep building on it.”

Learn more about the Bounce Back: Art Making & Resiliency Art Exhibition