First-Generation Celebration: Exhibit features artwork from first-gen students

First-generation SMCC students, employees and supporters put their artwork on display at this week’s opening of the TRIO program’s first-generation art exhibit.

The show was organized by the TRIO program as part of the National First-Generation College Celebration. First-gen students, employees and supporters were invited to submit artwork and a few words about what it means to be a first-generation college student or supporter. The 13 submissions — drawings, photos, baskets, paintings and more — will be on display in the Learning Commons through at least Nov. 18.

At the Nov. 8 opening, Sierra Henderson talked about her photos of the ocean that are now part of the exhibit. “I am a first-gen student and I am doing something I love to do, learning,” she wrote in her testimonial about being a first-gen student. “In the beginning, I was scared, but now I am so happy that I am here.”

Mary Murerwa submitted seven intricate baskets that she made out of dyed sweetgrass from her native Rwanda. The baskets, known as peace baskets, can take between three and 15 days each to make.

Murerwa learned to weave baskets at age 8 while she was an orphan growing up in a refugee camp in a foreign country. She sold the baskets to pay for food, clothing and other needs for her and her seven siblings.

In her testimonial, she wrote that being a first-gen student “means giving a hand to other young orphans in Rwanda who are currently struggling with their basic needs, especially food, shelter, clothing, and school fees by selling baskets that I weave and sell here in the USA and donating 50% of my profits to those in need in Rwanda.”

The students, supporters and employees whose works are now part of the exhibit are Amanda Gagnon, Logan Bru, Nevada Fahey, Evy Ashton Fisher, Sierra Henderson, Sarah Merrill, Abigail Moore, Cat Moran, Mary Murerwa, Louis Smith, Rowan Stover, Sully Sullivan and Whitney Votra.

“As a first-generation student, the journey into higher education can be filled with confusion, self-doubt, and challenging terrain,” Sullivan wrote. “It can also be awe-inspiring, adventurous, risky, and exhilarating.”

To view photos the artwork and testimonials, people can stop by the Learning Commons or visit the SMCC Flickr account.