The University Galleries hosted an event on Thursday, Dec. 1 for World AIDS Day and Safer Sex Week. The event featured a discussion between students, staff and graduate coordinators about the importance of standing up for others in the LGBTQ+ community and how Montclair State University is a welcoming place of diversity for them.
The art gallery featured a work done by Joseph Liatela titled “Nothing Under Heaven” on display from Sept. 13 until Dec. 9. Liatela is a New York City-based artist whose work has been nominated by organizations such as the Oxford University Press, The Leslie-Lohman Museum Journal and San Fransisco MoMA’s Open Space according to the university’s website.
The website also details how Liatela’s work “brings together new commissions and recent works that explore the need for connection, pleasure and agency with oppressive systems” and “invokes a wide range of stories to assess what it means to move together, remember together and repair together.”
“Nothing Under Heaven” involves forty-nine lilies in small glass tubes hanging from hooked chains to represent the forty-nine lives lost during the Pulse nightclub shooting which took place in Orlando, Florida in June 2016. Liatela also recently added five separate lilies to represent those killed during the Club Q shooting this past November in Colorado Springs.
The lilies hang above black marble tiles that represent a club dance floor with the words “To Move Is To Remember” engrained in them to memorialize both tragedies.
John Han, a health promotion specialist at the Office of Health Promotion, gave insight into the strategic planning of student events and why they are great opportunities for students to attend.
“When it comes to our events, we always try to think about how to be inclusive with the whole community,” Han said. “This is the start of something where we can get ideas from other students, hear their perspectives and to bring those perspectives into reality hopefully. We want to try and incorporate as many ideas from everyone and try to make future events for everyone in this community.”
Han also brought up how being a part of the Office of Health Promotion’s specialized staff helps him plan events and communicate thoroughly with students if they choose to attend.
“As a staff member myself, it’s always great to learn and hear from students,” Han said. “I always learn so much from them and it’s something I look forward to. I thought this event was good personally for me too because it gave me the opportunity to learn their perspectives and hear from them.”
Arianna Ferrer, a junior business administration major with a concentration in marketing, spoke about her experience at the event.
“You just get a lot more information about all the resources that we have on campus, or how we can better our campus including [for] the LGBTQ+ community,” Ferrer said. “You don’t really see as many LGBTQ+ events happening compared to others so I think it’s really good to have more events like these happening on campus.”
Valentina Mejia, a graduate student in public health and a graduate coordinator for the Office of Health Promotion, explained the importance of the exhibition and event from a graduate student’s point of view.
“I think this was a powerful event,” Mejia said. “Even though Montclair State is a great, progressive, stigma-free campus and it’s doing work to make a more inclusive space for our LGBTQ+ students, hearing the students’ perspectives, especially from students of color in the community or supporters of it and talking about what we can do to make things more inclusive is really inspiring.”
Mejia also mentioned how different organizations across campus coming together to discuss the topic of LGBTQ+ safety and equality is the foundation for building a more secure and promising college experience.
“We all come from different organizations, whether it be student-led organizations or student workers,” Meija said. “It’s nice to see we can bridge those gaps working together in the future to make Montclair State ideally as inclusive and safe as it can be as a community and working to expand a safer space.”
Stefanie LoBue, a graduate coordinator for the Office of Health Promotion, also touched upon hearing students’ voices around essential topics in order to have a safe collegiate experience.
“I thought the event went really well and it was really nice to hear from the students so open and honestly,” LoBue said. “It is most important to hear from students about what needs to change here and not necessarily from the folks who are making the decisions. The students are the most important voices to be heard and I think discussions like this are where these changes can start in order to build the future.”