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Through Their Own Eyes

By Jennifer Jennings '04

Smith students now have an exhibition space to call their own -- a place to display art, even for those who are not art majors; to showcase the history and activities of an organization; or to share photographs documenting their experiences away from Smith. The Arts Lounge, located in the Campus Center, is a flexible space with soft, bright purple chairs, podiums and moveable walls, where student exhibitions change nearly every month. Although the lounge has been open less than a year, it has already sponsored several exhibitions, including "How the Campus Center Came to Be," "Art by Non-Art Majors" and "Spectrum."

The March exhibition, "Exposures…Photographic displays of personal projects away from Smith," was organized by Virada Chatikul '04. In October she approached Hannah Portello-Swagel '05, the Arts Lounge intern, with the idea of exhibiting photographs that students had taken during individual off-campus projects -- research, Praxis internships or JYA experiences. Chatikul had taught English in Northeast Thailand last summer and sought a venue where she and other students could share their overseas experiences with the Smith community. "I wanted a space to create an exhibit that would include several students' experiences away from Smith through photographs and words, and the Campus Center had one," says Chatikul. She recruited seven students for the exhibition and obtained funding from the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Arts Lounge, the Fine Arts Council and the SGA Sawyer Fund.

After attending an Anthropology of Art class at the School for Oriental and African Studies in London last year, Chatikul had become interested in the ways that exhibits are displayed and how that affects the perception of the viewer. She tried to put her ideas into practice while helping students to develop their portions of the Arts Lounge exhibition, which included photographs and text. "I wanted the students to get creative in their own way, so that each exhibit was an individual expression," explains Chatikul. The exhibitors and their subjects were Virada Chatikul '04, Nong Khai, Thailand; Anna Dengler '04, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic; Katy Hardy '04, Banaras, India; Maureen Loa '04, Lima, Peru, and Tanzania; Erica Sandberg '04, Baja, Mexico; Karli Swift '04, Cape Town, South Africa; and Joy Weber '04J, Tanzania.

Chatikul hopes that this type of exhibition will become an annual event and that more students will participate. "Hopefully people will start taking more pictures of their experiences while doing internships or projects in their hometowns, elsewhere in the U.S. or abroad -- anywhere that's off campus and away from Smith," she adds.
The Arts Lounge currently features "Artwork Inspired by Smith," a series of paintings and drawings that will remain on display through Commencement. For more information about the Arts Lounge, send an e-mail to

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