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SJU Students Contribute to Global Art Project

Thursday, March 2, 2017

From the University’s campuses in Rome, Italy, to Queens, NY, nearly 300 St. John’s students are showcasing their creativity this semester as part of a globally-performed art collaboration known as do it.

“Through our participation in do it, the arts are even more a part of curricular and extracurricular life at St. John’s,” said Yulia Tikhonova, Director, the Dr. M. T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery. The students’ work is on exhibit at the gallery from January 9 to March 3. “The entire event generated new and expanded academic and artistic connections among students and faculty—a transformative experience for all!”

The traveling exhibition was originally conceived and organized by Hans Ulrich Obrist, a London-based art curator, critic, and historian. Inspired by French-born cubist painter Marcel Duchamp, Mr. Obrist launched the project in Paris, France, in 1993. The idea was to have audiences create based on an artist’s instructions. Since then, many approaches have been added to it—including concepts created at the University.

The St. John’s version of do it comprised creative submissions from 12 classes within the departments of Art and Design, English, History, and the Institute for Core Studies. Their professors adopted instructions from Mr. Obrist’s compendium into their teaching objectives and course syllabi.

At the Yeh Art Gallery, students created a large-scale geometric drawing; a geography class used Google Earth to collect and print street names from their home cities; a Discover New York class presented a series of letters written in the voices of early settlers in New York City; and a “Global Love” poetry reading took place on Valentine’s Day.

“We selected photographs of unknown people and created stories behind them,” said illustration major Faith McCallion ’17BFA. The portraits the students chose in her Visual Narrative course were of actual people who came through Ellis Island in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. “The beauty of the project was how our storytelling unraveled in a free and open-ended manner.”

Faith’s classmate, Los Angeles, CA, native Ellen Urtecho ’18C, is taking six distance learning courses. She wrote a story for her do it project about an immigrant girl fleeing Greece. “I think it's amazing that St. John's hosted this exhibit, because it gave students the opportunity to create any type of narrative,” said the English major. “I chose to depict immigrants as heroic and courageous because, to me, that's exactly what they are.”