To open the Department of Women's and Gender Studies 35th Annual Conference on the Advancement of Women, a 'Healing in the Arts' production was hosted by a group of students on Thursday, April 25 in the Student Union Building.
This event is the seventh production put on by the student-group, Shera Jackson, instructor in Human Development and Family Studies and event adviser, said. 'Healing in the Arts' productions are hosted every semester.
Any student can join the group, she said, which will hopefully be a registered student organization in the fall.
The event featured various artistic presentations such as dance, spoken word, poetry and a fashion show. Students, faculty and staff participated in an informative panel discussion at the end of the presentation. The program also featured a live art show auction.
The different performances allowed students to tell their stories and experiences with trauma, mental illness and personal struggles through forms of artistic expression.
Madelynn Hamel, a senior human development and family studies major from Arlington, said she created the event in 2016 because of her experience with depression and struggling through a semester at Texas Tech.
Hamel met with Jackson, her instructor, to vent and discuss other coping options for her to successfully complete the theatre program, she said. Hamel later took the semester off to recuperate and came back to Tech with a renewed spirit and energy for her first love, the performing arts.
She said Jackson later suggested they work together on an independent study exploring trauma and human development in the fine arts. This independent study spurred the creation of the event Healing in the Arts.
“It started out just as writing and dance, and throughout the semesters we’ve added acting and singing and then art was the last thing to be introduced,” she said.
Hamel discussed the several additions she has made to the program with the creation of a board of officers, directors, more writers and performers.
“I think you can definitely tell the impact based on people coming to the events and coming back to be involved,” she said.
Hamel recalled a statement the event director made about the impact of the program and how it was a testament to the effectiveness of her event.
“Zoe’s biggest thing, that’s our senior director, that she said was all I want to do is help people like, ‘Madd helped me,'" she said. "I feel like that is the biggest thing that someone could tell me, like I want to be like you because you helped me. I never thought that was going to be something someone could ever say about me, so I’m pretty proud."
Jackson echoed Hamel’s thoughts on the event’s impact on the Tech community and said she has seen students who are facing emotional and mental distress transform through Healing in the Arts.
"I get ‘thank you's’ all the time," she said. “I’ve seen amazing change in some of our participants, I remember just being so worried about someone’s depression, and the next thing I know they are stepping up as a leader and they’re shining, its making an individual impact, but it's also making a broader impact."
Joyous Njoku, a sophomore supply chain management major from Houston, said she attended the event as a way to relax from the stressors of finals and to socialize with a friend. However, she said the event significantly changed her perspective on trauma.
“I learned that I really don’t know some people’s stories," she said. "I can look at someone and think they’re having a pretty average college experience but they have like demons they’re fighting through right now."
Chloe Stevens, a junior early childhood development major from Allen, wrote and danced to a piece called “Dear Clark,” about the death of her twin brother due to suicide. Stevens said the event was significant for herself, and she has been able to turn trauma into something beautiful through art.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of trauma in my personal life," she said. "After the loss of my twin, I wanted to really raise awareness and make sure nobody else feels the way that he did, and I don’t anyone to feel the way that I do. This event gave me the opportunity to express my story, and the point I want to get across in a creative manner."
Hamel plans on continuing the program long after graduation. The feedback and stories she gets from attendants is what continues to motivate her, she said. She also plans to expand the event to reach larger audiences at other campuses and feature more creative performances.
“We are actually launching our YouTube channel at the end of the month. It will feature art, writing pieces , dancing, music singing, acting, it will feature it all," she said. "My next biggest goal is to get it started at another university, we have had so much interest and support for people who want it at other universities.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated from its original version.