“What we can and must do…is sustain the effort to make our campuses safer over the long term and to encourage and train students to contribute thoughtfully to these changes in their own communities, both while they are in school and as they take their place in the broader world.”

- President Lee C. Bollinger and Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg

Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative: Arts Option Exhibition (April 21 and 22) and Web Gallery

You are cordially invited to the Arts Option Exhibition, a special two-day event featuring student work created for Columbia University’s Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative. April 21-22 noon-8 pm, Presidential Ballroom, Columbia University Faculty House (see below for entrance location)

The Arts Option Exhibition and Web Gallery are one part of a University-wide initiative focused on what it means to be a member of the Columbia community, guided by our core commitments to mutual respect and belonging, alongside intellectual exchange and ethical leadership. Within this broad scope, the Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative asks all students to consider the ways that sexual respect is inseparable from community membership.

The Arts Option, a joint effort of students, faculty, and administrators from across the University, invited students to create a new forum for expression related to this bond between sexual respect and community membership. In the Committee’s words:

We encourage the submission of artistic works that are inspiring and that will help us further develop a culture of sexual respect and community engagement. The arts option encourages art that embodies and offers diverse ideas and ideals from students of all races and ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender expressions, and other expressions of the self.

Responding to this call, hundreds of Columbia students submitted works in film and video, visual art, poetry and prose, drama, dance, music, performance art, and multimedia.

In the words of the eminent writers, artists, and others from within and outside of Columbia who served as Commentators for the Arts Option works:

Colm Toίbίn, Columbia University Department of English and Comparative Literature

The art we make arises from the most private and intimate concerns and struggles, but also from pressing matters which arise when our dream life merges or intersects with what is sharply public or even openly political. Art begins in whispers and tentative rhythms but it can branch out into many realms, including ones in which the voice becomes loud and the rhythm angry and the tone combative. Art begins in ambiguity but as it proceeds it can shed that ambiguity and aim towards the forceful, the clear, the disturbing. Just as art can insist on its own need for subtlety and quietness, it can also inhabit a space where artists can have an argument with themselves and with the world.

Nina Berman, Columbia Journalism School

Outrage, defiance, insistence, regret, loneliness, betrayal, forgiveness, resilience, shame, justice and above all an urgency to be heard: these are some of the emotions and themes articulated by the brave artists who delved deep to make work for this collection.

Adam Bandler, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

The Arts Option, stands out not because it produces excellent works of art (and it does produce some exquisite projects) but because it gives a student the chance to re-frame the very questions being raised. . . . For me, what makes a good work in this series is not its beauty or craft or evocation of an emotion, but its ability to challenge, subvert, or claim the fraught question: how should sexuality fit within our community, how can we define rules and boundaries, how must we address the wrongs that far too many of our students suffer, and how to do it in a way that transcends the platitudes, clichés, and legalese all too common?

Victor LaValle, Columbia University School of the Arts

How do you create a healthy community? You don’t simply go to and from class, passing one another without more than a nod. Instead you share the hardships, the fears, and also the triumphs and strengths that come from having weathered the worst. The entries in the Art Option seem like an encouraging step in this journey. Here is your community. Know them and let them know you.

Read More Commentaries

The Exhibition is located in the Presidential Ballroom, Columbia University Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive (entrance on 116th Street through the Wien Courtyard between Amsterdam and Morningside Drive). The Arts Option Gallery website launches on April 21st at www.artsoption.columbia.edu.

For more on the Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative and the Arts Option call for submissions, check out the video below: