Creative Spaces, Piece by Piece

story by Leah Pratley, CHC Communications

What once was a bustling, colorful place Clarks Honors College students called home now sits quiet and empty. Without Chapman Hall’s typical foot traffic, the CHC’s college resumption committee searched for ways to make students feel heard, connected, and inspired by each other. The idea they came up with? A project dubbed “Creative Spaces.”

“Originally we planned to fill the empty, sanitized spaces of Chapman Hall with in-person physical pieces, but given COVID, we decided to make the gallery entirely digital,” said Liza Alter, the lead of the Creative Spaces project. “We hit on the idea of featuring student or community artwork so that it would be more representative of the tenacity of the college population’s creativity and to put that on display to send out a nice positive message.” 

Over the course of the last year, people all over the world decided to hone new skills or further develop existing passions and talents. Having an outlet like art in unprecedented times has, for many, made quarantine bearable. 

“I mean we have students who are living in the dorms, we have students who are living off campus, we have students who are living in completely different states and countries right now,” Alter said. “So the idea was to still create a space where students could see what everybody else is creating and we selected some themes that we hoped would kind of create some student involvement about some things that students are really passionate about.”

Some of the themes include a Black Lives celebration and justice theme, a “what makes a community?” theme, and a theme centered entirely around self-care during COVID. 

“We’ve had a lot of really interesting submissions this year, I think the one thing that comes to mind is the participation that we’ve had from faculty, which has been cool because I think that they are also feeling the same way and missing that connection to other students,” Alter said. “And there’s this one piece by Brian McWhorter for the ‘what makes a community theme’ and I think that was a pretty strong piece.”

The piece, titled “Chains of Virtue” shows McWhorter dressed in a tutu with a ball and chain on his ankle. McWhorter works as the music director for the Eugene Ballet and decided to highlight gender politics and power within the dance, but particularly ballet, community. 

      Brian McWhorter in a tutu

"This photo was taken for a series of talks called Ballet Outsider:
Gender Politics and Power that I hosted at the UO SOMD. When
Erin Zysett and I started talking about the series, we wanted
to create something that hinted at the objectification of women
in ballet who are too often coerced into a sexualized role - either
on stage or off. And we also wanted to address the heteronormative
convention in ballet that, even in 2020, remains the rule. Of course,
there is a disturbing irony to this piece: I chose to objectify myself -
I was able to exercise agency in this shoot - and even though I am
music director for the Eugene Ballet, I'm enough of an outsider to
ballet that this provocative shoot would never hurt my chances at
being cast for a production." —Brian McWhorter, artist statment


Although art can serve as a form of stress relief, often the pressure of creating something the artist deems worthy does more harm than good.

“I think it’s really difficult because everybody right now is feeling different levels of being overwhelmed and so I think this term has just been particularly challenging for people to have the energy and actually submit pieces,” Alter said. “And so it's been really hard finding that line where we don't want to overwhelm our students but also this could be a great source of strength for people.”

With this in mind, the committee decided that the final theme for the Creative Spaces project would be a “free for all” so that students could submit any work they are proud of and have it displayed on the website. 

“We’ve very intentionally kept this project vague, we haven’t specified that we want fine art or poetry or anything, we’ll take it all,” Alter said. “At the very least, the Creative Spaces project is a cool thing to look at, and at the very most it's something that can provide that kind of creative distraction or outlet in some way.”

To submit your work, click here.