In the ceramics studio, a group of about 20 freshmen in a combo English 101/ art studio class transformed their written essays into a works of art.

Their installation resembles a large, surreal jigsaw puzzle, but on every piece a single word is etched into clay, such as “supernatural” or “love.”

Student Bryan Welch said in an interview on Sept. 28 that each word is from a narrative about a sacred place.
“What we’ve added to each piece represents our diversity,” he said. “It’s not a typical puzzle piece.”

The creation is one part of the campus-wide Celebration of Student Writing, an event dedicated to freshmen creativity and, obviously, writing, said event chair Genesea Carter in her office on Oct. 19

Carter said teachers and students are asked to create art installations based on assignments and readings in English 101 and 102 classes. She said the hope is to show students the many forms in which writing manifests itself.

“They are excited that it’s not about writing,” Carter said. “I can’t tell you. My students are so excited about this being creative and being able to express themselves in a way other than writing.”
But some students are just proud to combine the mediums.

Back at the ceramics studio, student Brianne Clarkson said she never mixed her writing and artwork before.
“I think it’s really helpful right now,” she said. “High school art classes don’t involve writing. To learn to write about our artwork and explain what we’re doing is kind of revolutionary for me.”

The class agrees, and even the casual observer can see the group gets along well, but that’s what spending eight hours a week together will do. Carter, back in the confines of her office, said part of the celebration’s goal is to bring freshmen together.

“It’s not just a couple of sections doing this separately,” she said. “I think that’s the most exciting part, because they can go around and see what their other English cohorts are doing. It’s building that community, and it’s not academic.”
Carter said it also gives freshmen a voice they wouldn’t have otherwise.

“Students don’t like English 101 and 102 anyway,” she said. “Let’s be honest: They don’t want to be here. So maybe if we provide them an outlet to be creative … and to show them that the UNM community cares about what they say, that would be community building for them.”

Meanwhile, the class fits in a few remaining puzzle pieces to the rectangular installation. Some are three-dimensional while others have carefully drawn lines across them which represent the creative uniqueness to each student, said Christine Beagle, the class instructor.

“Your writing is more transactional than words on paper,” she said, while a few students remolded a piece for a tighter fit. “It has meaning beyond that. That’s what the physical representations are for.”

This year marks the celebration’s second year, and Carter said it is even bigger than last year. She said the event’s hours of operation were extended to give everyone a chance to see the exhibit.

Student Alexandra Ross, finishing up the installation back in the studio, said the students are arguably the most important part of the puzzle piece.

“I feel like we are going to be pretty exceptional,” she said. “It hasn’t been done before. They aren’t doing what we are doing.”