Student art displayed in local businesses to raise social issue awareness

Meghan Dincler | Online Editor

Lisa Vitek hanging up Jada Fox’s artwork as Fox and project organizer Audrey Galloway watch.

Art has the ability to inspire– to teach people something about themselves and about those around them. Now, that art is beginning to make its way into Mason through an up-and-coming student-run project.

A Presentation of Minds is a project led by Audrey Galloway, a junior who started it as a way to raise awareness for issues affecting both the community and the world as a whole through art. In order to do so, she reached out to creative students at Mason who were willing to create a piece dedicated to a certain social issue so that it could then be displayed in a public area around the city.

Galloway started the project in accompaniment with her Girl Scout troop, using this as her Gold award project: a project that is intended to bring lasting change to the community and “make the world a better place.” Being an avid attendee of art museums growing up, the emotion and meaning behind art has always been something that has been of interest to her. Now, she has come to see it as something that can be used to inspire others to make a change in their community as well as hopefully draw a younger audience to a love of art like hers.

“My parents have always taken me to art museums,” Galloway said. “I’ve been educated on it, and I was thinking about having students make art for the community. I feel like you never see that anywhere. It’s always adults, and I think people would enjoy seeing [student made art].”

While it is not incredibly common to see public art installations around Mason, it is even less common to see them done by teens. Galloway said that she feels “like people say they listen to [teenagers], but I don’t feel like they take our opinions into consideration sometimes.” She said that having the students create the art to be displayed gave them a unique outlet to speak to the public, increasing the impact and reach that the art itself could have on those observing it. 

“It’s voicing the opinions of the people who are going to lead this country,” Galloway said. “This is putting it out there and saying ‘This is how I view it.’”

With her goal to recruit students in mind, Galloway first turned to Junior Jada Fox. As someone who has always been an advocate for body positivity, Fox jumped on the opportunity to create something that can help spread that message to those who may need to hear it. 

“I knew I wanted to do something with self love and being comfortable in your own skin,” Fox said. “So that’s the direction I went. I want to bring light to the idea that people aren’t alone, as well as the way that media can affect people and how we can embrace it and find positives in it.”

Her design — the painted face of a woman in front of a collage of magazine headline clippings, featuring the phrase “you are enough” on top of them — was inspired by a series of ‘trash drawings’” by creator Jayden J. These drawings were designed to be simplistic, consisting mostly of sporadically drawn lines that, when viewing the finished piece, create a human face. Fox said that she was drawn in by the way that “[Jayden] turned something that would typically be trash into something beautiful.” Fox then fell in love with the idea of creating something beautiful and meaningful out of something not typically viewed as such. “I thought that it would fit perfectly with my theme,” Fox said. “It reflects on how the media can be negative but also bring out the beauty in yourself.” 

Having the art placed around the community is a core part of Galloway’s plan for the project. One of her main hurdles during the project was figuring out where to place the art pieces that gets a lot of traffic in the community but allows for easy viewing. She contacted the owner of their first target, Mim’s Off Main, and Fox spent close to three weeks working on her art piece that was soon to be displayed in the shop in downtown Mason. 

Lisa Vitek, the owner of Mim’s Off Main, said that she has always had a great appreciation for art and feels that having Fox’s piece displayed in her building will have a very positive impact on the shop’s atmosphere. Growing up in a family of artists, she enjoys being able to showcase others’ creations, even if she does not produce art pieces herself. 

“To be able to show somebody else’s work or creativity is amazing,” Vitek said. “I think it will bring in students who come to see it and have a very positive impact on the community.”

COVID-19 has made the past year a difficult time for many small businesses, and Mim’s Off Main was no exception. However, Vetik hopes that the new art showcase will help to drive business while educating students at the same time.

“Small businesses were so stressed through all of the crazy events of 2020,” Vitek said. “I feel like reaching out to the schools and doing something for the students is something [small businesses] should try to do.” 

Fox’s piece was displayed in Mim’s Off Main on January 10, but that is not all that Galloway has in store for A Presentation of Minds. She plans to continue recruiting young artists and spreading education through art all around Mason. Fox also hopes to be able to continue making art for the project and sharing the power that she said she believes art can have on someone’s mindset. 

In order to ensure the art displays have the impact she desires, Galloway plans to continue tackling tough social issues through this project. She said that she wants teens to feel confident in sharing their views and their voice, and wants to provide that outlet for them to speak out on their beliefs. To not be silenced, but to be encouraged. 

Ultimately, Galloway said that she wants to encourage the community to listen, and has allowed contributing artists to “write something to accompany the art that explains what their thought process behind it was,” as the project was never just about the art.  

“Education is a big part of it [the project],” Galloway said. “It’s all about addressing issues that nobody talks about, ones that they’re trying to talk about but people keep shutting down their conversations.”