A group of junior Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program students and RAs from Northwest Block are coordinating a Tunnel of Oppression event featuring the art of Gonzaga students.
The event will be held all day April 10 in The Globe Room in Cataldo.
Students will be able to walk through a tunnel in Cataldo where there will be variety of student art displayed which will fit into one or more of the four themes of the tunnel.
“It’s basically an experiential art exhibit,” Melina Harvey, the who pitched the event, said. “We have accumulated student artwork across four different systems of oppression, and those are LGBTQ+ issues, mental health awareness, DACA immigration and sexual assault awareness.”
Last semester, Dr. Josh Armstrong, faculty member and director of the Comprehensive Leadership Program (CLP), was teaching a Hogan class and assigned the students to create service projects that allowed them to serve the community.
“He gave us the space to work in groups in order to affect the GU community in some way, but it was up to us as to how we were to do that,” junior Hogan student Nathaniel Tolton said.
Harvey brought the idea to do a Tunnel of Oppression to the group, after she heard it pitched at the beginning of the year from her Residence Director, Sabrina Nelson.
After Harvey brought the idea to her Hogan class, they decided to make it more than just a semester project and something they could work on with the Northwest Block of RAs.
“We are all really excited to bring that kind of event to Gonzaga because it’s never hosted one before and it happens at universities across the United States and it started at a Jesuit university,” Harvey said. “So we thought, ‘Hey, Gonzaga is a Jesuit university and it fits right in with our mission statement and with kind of the climate of what’s happening right now.’”
As students walk through the tunnel, there will be an audio tour they can find on their phone and listen to, which allows them to click on corresponding numbers to the art and hear an explanation about what it is.
“One of the cool things about this project is we want to make it immersive and in some ways interactive,” Tolton said. “You’re not just walking freely around an art exhibit but more on this journey.”
There will also be different activities that are meant to give students more insight into what it’s like to be a part of an identity or structure where there has been oppression.
“We want students to have a better understanding of how their friends and community might experience those four oppression themes,” Hogan junior Navath Nhan said. “Hopefully this art exhibit will challenge students to shift their perspective and become an ally to this community.”
A broad variety of art is accepted in order to make the event visually connecting and to give students something more than just seeing the art. Spoken words, paintings, audio stories, videos and poems are some of the different art forms which will be included in the tunnel.
Anyone connected to the GU community can submit art. Art submissions for The Tunnel of Oppression are due April 1.
“Specifically, we want Gonzaga students to submit because we wanted our peers, our student body to understand these are very real issues,” Harvey said. “They aren’t just something you’re reading about online. This is real, this is happening here and it affects every one of us.”
Students who attend this event will be challenged to get outside of their comfort zones and learn new perspectives.
“You are meant to come in and be OK with that discomfort and be OK with really experiencing lots of different emotions and feelings, because we believe that from discomfort comes growth,” Harvey said.
This event is meant to be an opportunity to see the world through someone else’s lens and gain a better understanding of the world, according to Harvey.
“The point of this tunnel is to really take you through, at least in a small way, the lives of the oppressed, and I want people to come out of it on the other side just having some sort of piece of an understanding of what that might be like,” Tolton said.
“I think it will fundamentally shift their view next time they say something and next time they think about these things. I think that will be very invaluable to both the people who don’t know what it’s like and to the people who are on the receiving end of it,” he said.
Juliette Carey is a staff writer.