Traditional illustration pieces, student-coded games and painted skateboard decks were among the art pieces showcased at the Hive’s recent exhibit last Saturday.
Named “Untold Stories,” the second annual student-run art exhibit and performance event gave the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American community a platform for their vulnerabilities and talents to shine through.
“Untold Stories” was hosted by Pomona College’s Asian American Mentor Program with assistance from the International Student Mentor Program and South Asian Mentor Program and featured an open-mic, a calligraphy corner, a Tea Circle meeting and a traditional gallery.
Kristine Chang PO ’21, AAMP co-head mentor and member of the “Untold Stories” planning committee, said that as an artist, an event like “Untold Stories” has always been in the back of her mind.
“When I first applied to be [an AAMP] mentor, I wrote about this exact event in my proposal,” Chang said. “One thing that I wish I had as a [first-year] was a way to express myself as an Asian American person. Art has always been a way for me to express myself.”
AAMP mentor and planning committee member Kylie Wong PO ’22 hoped the event would create a warm and safe space for Asian American students.
“I’m hoping that at this event, people see many different perspectives,” she said. “The majority of us in the room do identify as Asian American, and I want them to know that they are not alone in their journey at the 5Cs. I want to create this warm bubble that envelops Asian American students into feeling pride and solidarity.”
Tramy Nguyen PO ’22, also on the planning committee, acknowledged the overall success of the event.
“Because ‘Untold Stories’ was such a hit last year — its first year — [the planning committee] felt the need to uphold the legacy,” she said via message. “Most people were impressed with the scale, with the high number of submissions and the variety of the works.”
The art gallery showed over 50 art submissions from 5C students as well as from college students outside of Claremont. The collection was an eclectic one — there were essays, poems, photographs, sculpture and video. Subject matter ranged from the personal to the political, discussing families, language, cities, pop culture, current events and history.
Student artist Kano Cheng PO ’22 created an interactive sculpture in which attendees could learn how to make origami paper cranes out of pages from “The History of Pomona College 1887-1969,” a book that can be found in nearly every Pomona College residence hall and academic building. After a crane was folded, Cheng would pin them up to the wall and splatter them with paint.
“This piece picked up a life of its own,” they said. “I wanted to show the exploration of visibility and legibility, specifically with this book. ‘The History of Pomona College’ is by an old, white man. You can’t glean any [accurate, diverse history] from this book. I started thinking about rendering the book illegible by destroying it.”
Cheng appreciated that “Untold Stories” accepted a wide array of art, asserting no limitations on what could be submitted.
“Even though I’m sitting in a gallery [that has] a museum atmosphere where you just look and you don’t touch, [my piece is still collaborative],” they said. “I like exploring that, and I think that even though you can interact with my piece, it is still art.”
The gallery also housed an interactive bulletin board that encouraged attendees to draw and write about their thoughts and feelings concerning the current political turmoil in Hong Kong.
Janelle Li PO ’23 was intrigued by the breadth of form and subject that artists tackled in their pieces, indirectly referencing the collaborative Hong Kong piece.
“Events like these discourage the monolithic stereotype of Asian Americans,” she said. “For example, I think it’s a stereotype for Asian people to be apolitical, so I am also really interested in seeing the political artwork at the show.”
As most guests had made their way through the gallery, “Untold Stories” hosted an open-mic with spoken word and musical performances about topics like body image, fitting in and growing up.
Nguyen said she was happy with the impact the exhibit had on the community.
“I loved the art and performances, but my favorite part was seeing the occasional parent and child exploring the gallery together,” Nguyen said. “The common narrative for APIDA families describes a tradition of … emotional reservation [and working] for the sake of the family. When I see children and their parents experience these stories side-by-side, [it’s] like we’re sprouting the seeds for a cultural transformation, and that’s such a good feeling to have.”