vinyl art
Vinyl art on exhibit at Parish Library on the UNM campus.

An effort to enter into the global conversation is the driving force behind a new exhibit at Parish Library in the Anderson Schools of Management. The exhibit of vinyl art came from a project conceived in spring 2014 by the student group International Business Students Global (IBSG).

Manuel Montoya, an assistant professor at the Anderson Schools of Management, who is the faculty advisor, says the group was very interested in the Syrian refugee crisis, and wanted to find a way to creatively discuss it at UNM.

Through IBSG’s Poetics Program and its Kraye Challenge, two of IBSG’s six programs, students solicited support from local and national artists and poets to help express the plight of displaced people throughout the world through a vinyl art project. The artists were given vinyl blanks to work with and used them to portray the themes of alienation and displacement.

The students were thinking about the 2003 United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) suggestion that all humanitarian efforts incorporate traditional knowledge and cultural heritage as a meaningful part of service to refugees and other displaced people. UNESCO says without art and without respect for the ways people mediate and express their lives there is a risk of taking the humanity from the relationship with those who are forced from their homes.

The Kraye Challenge is a project named for former business professor Howard Kraye who gave students $1,500 for a project.  The challenge was to conduct a project and have enough money left over to leave $1,500 to the next class of students.

IBSG raised enough to answer the challenge through an auction of the vinyl art last spring, but they also wanted to display some of the pieces so the project would continue through the fall semester. Some of the pieces are now on display in Parish Library, along with poems contributed by local poets. Now Montoya says they are compiling the story of the vinyl art exhibit and the poems, which are also part of the exhibit, into a book.

Montoya is a collector of vinyl art and is enthusiastic about ways the exhibit explores issues of displacement and economic empowerment.“We chose vinyl art to express these feelings because quirky and strange things have a way of connecting the innocence of ‘toys’ with the extremities of human suffering. We have done so because we believe that creative perceptions will change perspectives, and perspectives may save lives, but it will certainly let those lives have hope, meaning, and affirmation.”

The extra money the group raised from their auction of vinyl art last spring went to a nonprofit organization Art for Refugees in Transition. This renowned international group works with people living in refugee camps to help them explore their own cultural traditions through art.

“I think that’s really one of the joys of ideas when students are actually putting things together and synthesizing ideas, making connections that I think are really relevant in the world,” says Montoya. “At the same time this showcases that our students here in New Mexico and at UNM are not only innovative and creative thinkers, but they are globally minded in a meaningful way.”

The exhibit is scheduled to remain on display through October.