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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Art Union fosters community on campus

Some people say that UMass Boston lacks a sense of community. Some blame it on the large size of the student body. Others say that unlike traditional American universities, where most people live on campus, UMass Boston’s commuter culture makes joining extracurricular groups difficult. Although both are true, it is important to recognize the work of the many student-led organizations that foster community on campus.

One of these organizations is the Art Union. Club president Samantha Alexander described it as a club that fosters creative collaboration while also giving art back to the community. Their events range from gallery exhibitions to open mic nights. Notably, they worked alongside the Student Arts and Events Council to give students the opportunity to go on a trip to New York and visit the Museum of Modern Art for only $10.

Introducing art to the community can also happen locally. On April 18, the Art Union hosted a Paint Night at the Campus Center. Vice President Leigh Lennon said that a very important part of the club is to connect community members with a sense of play by giving them the opportunity to create art.

“College makes you feel like you’re drowning,” Lennon said, recognizing that being a full-time student is often juggled with outside commitments and work, which is very stressful. All of these emotions are bottled up in the body, and dealing with them in a healthy way is very important.

“I think learning how to express yourself gives you an outlet. […] even if [the painting] is not for anybody, to look pretty or sell it, you could literally throw it in the trash afterwards. Just to be able to get [your feelings] out is very important,” said Lennon.

The gallery exhibitions are the union’s big events and what sets them apart from other art-related clubs on campus. The galleries welcome art from students in all majors. The inaugural art gallery took place in McCormack in Room M01-0002 during the Spring of 2023 and featured 22 artists. Since the events are entirely student-run, the club members handled all aspects of the event: the promotion, art collection, event set-up, reception and clean-up.

Hosting an art gallery is very special because it tends to be the first time many students’ artwork is presented to the public. This gives artists the opportunity to invite their family and celebrate their artistic efforts. Similarly, being a part of a collection is important for artists and is usually included on their resume.

Aside from the inaugural gallery, they have hosted two others on the fourth floor of University Hall. “The Process” was hosted from Oct. 23 to 27, 2023 and “For Students by Students” from Feb. 12 to 16, 2024. The latter was run in conjunction with the Art for Mental Health Club.

In Fall 2024, the open mics were separate events from the gallery. They welcomed the community members’ spoken expression, mostly in the form of poetry, although there was also music. May 4, they hosted “Exploration of the Self” at the Fort Point Arts Community Assemblage Art Space in Seaport. The club board stated that they chose to host the event off-campus to welcome the broader Boston community.

Aside from connecting the community with art, the Art Union aims to develop a community of artists. Club advisor and Professor Zachary Horn said, “One of the greatest predictors of student perseverance after graduation is the strength of their artistic network.”

During the semester the club hosted meetings every Thursday in University Hall in Room 4420 at 6 p.m., where people socialized while sharing a snack and doing some coloring. Given that artists’ work is so collaborative, developing spaces where students can meet over a slice of pizza is essential.

While teaching his Introduction to Graphic Design course, Horn noticed Alexander’s intelligence, enthusiasm and kindness. This led him to suggest to Alexander that she become the club president and lead in reviving the Art Union during the spring of 2023.

Her efforts in tandem with the work from the board of the Art Union enabled the club to bring meaningful events to campus and develop a strong community of UMass Boston students who share the enjoyment of art.

Alexander shared that when UMass Boston students interact with the Art Union she wishes two things: that it feels like home and a warm hug.