Monique Ho-Ching, senator of The Ohana Association, said Pacific Islanders are often primarily recognized for their athleticism. Weber State’s TOA hopes to change the stereotype.
“Our athletes think they have to stick to just being athletes because of the stereotype,” Ho-Ching said. “They don’t realize that they can also be involved in cultural and educational achievements.”
TOA hosted their 2nd annual art exhibit on Sept. 5, located in the Shepherd Union art gallery.
Five artists from different parts of the country were chosen to create art, showcasing Pacific Islanders who are activists, scholars and leaders in higher education.
“This year we wanted to focus the exhibit on academics. We wanted visitors and Pacific Islander students to see themselves reflected as activists and scholars,” Ho-Ching said. “It’s hard to be what you can’t see. It’s easier to visualize succeeding when you’ve seen someone do it that has a similar background and culture.”
The exhibit and its opening took months in planning and execution. Alyssa Velasquez, the gallery director, said she was intrigued by the various perspectives and ideas that arose during the planning stages.
“I hope when students go through the exhibit they can see how beautiful other people’s culture can be,” Velasquez said.
Bill Louis, a freelance artist from Eagle Mountain, Utah, created a portrait of Dr. Linda Tuhwai Smith for the exhibit. Smith is a professor of indigenous education at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.
“I’m heavily influenced by my culture, and I try to incorporate that into my art,” Louis said. “I love color and I love urban art, and you can see that in my portraits. I hope, especially for the younger generation, that they can see themselves reflected in these pieces and be ready to make waves and see it’s okay to produce art.”
Tracy Williams, who is based in Salt Lake City, took two days to complete her portraits of poets Teresia Teaiwa and Konai Helu Thaman.
Despite not selecting who she would depict in her portraits, Williams said she felt a deep connection to both of the women because of their work, community involvement and how they’ve continued furthering their education.
Williams said her art is a mixture of pop-art and realism.
“I paint with purpose, and in islander culture certain situations are considered normal and never talked about, but with art you can portray those issues in a way that you couldn’t back home,” Williams said.
Williams hopes the art influences generations to able to do what they love and create their own waves and for those who may not be familiar with her culture to be educated through the art.
The Art of the Pacific exhibit will be on display until Sep 27.