Students gathered at the Penn Women's Center earlier this week to celebrate the launch of an art exhibit highlighting Penn students' interpretations of gender and identity.
The installation, titled "Art and Activism: An Exhibit of Gender and Identity," features photographs, paintings, poems, and other artworks created by Penn students. It is just one part of Women’s Week 2019, an annual event planned by the Women’s Center and a board of students. The exhibit was co-sponsored by The F-Word, a student magazine that publishes feminist literature and art, and will remain open until Women’s Week ends on March 24.
Women’s Week Logistics Chair and College sophomore Amanpreet Singh said the Art and Activism exhibit highlights a variety of student voices that might not otherwise be heard.
"It is a great way to see how people view themselves and view their experiences with gender and how they feel their voice matters," Singh, a former beat reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, added.
One featured painting, from Elaf Saeed, a candidate for a doctorate in dental medicine and a master's degree in education, depicted a female body lying against a fence. Its accompanying description said it is “dedicated to women of color that learned to persevere, persist, and grow even when the world is working against them."
Engineering freshman Adeeba Tak said she found Saeed's painting reassuring. Referencing the challenges she faces as a woman of color and an international student, Tak said the painting made her realize that “even if you face a lot of struggles, you keep on going.”
The F-Word editor-in-chief and College senior Sophia Clark said a piece originally published in the magazine is also on display in the exhibit.
“It’s a really different experience seeing it personally versus seeing it on paper, and so that’s the beauty of this installation,” Clark said.
College freshman Rehma Malik said she enjoyed "Reclaiming Territory," a series of drawings from College freshman Serena Martinez, because “it promotes loving your own body.”
“These students are showing their activism through the visual arts, so I think that’s amazing," Women's Center Director Sherisse Laud-Hammond said.
The theme of Women’s Week 2019 is “Voice and Validity." Women's Week manager and College junior Jenna Liu said the board chose this theme because more people are engaging in public discourse in the current political climate. Liu added that validation is key because it ensures that all voices are treated with compassion and respect.
“We wanted to create opportunities for people to reclaim space that might not be readily available for them normally at Penn, and to make sure that their experiences are valued and validated by both Women’s Week and the entire Penn community,” Liu said.