Center for Social Concerns opens 2024 Arts of Dignity student exhibit

February 5, 2024

The Center for Social Concerns opened its 2024 Arts of Dignity Student Art Exhibit on January 22 with an awards presentation and reception in Geddes Hall.

The exhibit’s opening coincided with Notre Dame’s Walk the Walk Week, an annual series of events designed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s fight for racial justice and to inspire us as we continue to push for a more just society.

Art plays an important role at the Center for Social Concerns.

From left, Marcela Rodriguez Holguin, Dave DeBacker, Luis Sosa Manubes, and MK McGuirk.

The arts provide a concrete encounter with people and communities marginalized by injustice as they help us to imagine a more just world. They also facilitate new collaborations, engage a range of faculty and students, and are useful pedagogical tools within the classroom.

In their Arts of Dignity submissions, students explored related themes such as diversity, civil rights, and economic fairness. The works, solicited from undergrads and graduate students at Notre Dame as well as Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross College, and Indiana University South Bend, will remain on display in Geddes Hall until the end of the spring semester.

Four student artists were recognized with awards at the reception on January 22.

Luis Sosa Manubes, a 2023 computer science graduate, received an award for “Máscaras de Protestas De Colores” — a photography-sculpture project that explores the theme of identity and cultural pride in Mexico. It features two Mexican girls wearing traditional Mexican dresses and colorful masks inspired by Mexican culture.

“Cultural pride and celebration is an important part of creating a more just and inclusive society. By embracing our differences and celebrating our unique cultural identities, we can create a more vibrant, beautiful, and colorful world,” Sosa Manubes said. “Through these photos, I hope to inspire others to wear their cultural heritage proudly and loudly, resist the pressure to conform, and demand the acceptance and celebration of all identities.”

“Máscaras de Protestas De Colores”

Dave DeBacker, a senior architecture major, was recognized for his watercolor painting, “Fabric of Society,” which focuses on themes of Catholic social teaching, community, participation, and human dignity. The piece depicts diverse people working together on a quilt and in other types of shared labor symbolic of a community’s work toward the common good.

“I was inspired by Catholic social teaching, the Catholic Worker Movement, social justice groups, and other organizations working to advocate for a more just and equitable world,” DeBacker said. “As viewers stand before this work, I hope to engage them in a contemplative journey that prompts reflection on the enduring values of Catholic social teaching and the profound beauty of society’s rich tapestry.”

“Fabric of Society,” left, is one painting in a set of three that Dave DeBacker submitted.
“Challenging Rhetorics”

Marcela Rodriguez Holguin, a sophomore majoring in marketing and graphic design, received an award for “Challenging Rhetorics,” a silkscreen print that displays an example of hateful speech partially covered by a stamp with the statement, “I stand with immigrants.” The artist used yellow in the piece because the color can represent hope and happiness as well as cowardice. She used red to represent drive, energy, and courage.

“The exploration of diversity, showing respect, and building solidarity is something that Notre Dame encourages through events such as Walk the Walk Week,” Rodriguez Holguin said. “While this piece focuses on immigration, it also showcases our multifaceted lives and opinions and how communication can enable a dialogue on issues that must be addressed.”

MK McGuirk, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, was recognized for her digital photograph, “Bharatanatyam Dance.” The photo shows a student performer at Asian Allure, an annual cultural showcase presented by the Asian American Association of Notre Dame. McGuirk said the fall 2023 showcase, “Carrying the Legacy,” demonstrated the power of preserving culture.

“Bharatanatyam Dance”

“I have always loved that photography can illustrate the story of a person,” McGuirk said. “The Bharatanatyam dance was the opener at Asian Allure, filling the theater with energy and emotion that continued throughout the entire night. It is really rewarding to continue to share moments from this showcase and continue to pass along traditions.”

Krista Hoefle, senior curator at the South Bend Museum of Art, served as juror for the Arts of Dignity exhibit.

“All of the entries had a clarity of message as well as a unique aesthetic voice. I personally found all of the artworks inspiring,” Hoefle said. “It isn’t a small thing to express yourself, particularly if that expression amplifies the voices of those who have been marginalized.”

In addition to showcasing the work of student artists, the Center for Social Concerns has collaborated on arts initiatives with a variety of partners throughout the South Bend region. These projects have included a permanent exhibit of art by Pokagon Band of Potawatomi citizens in the Geddes Hall Coffee House on campus, the Foundry Field murals that tell the baseball stories of South Bend’s marginalized communities, and a mural celebrating immigrant experiences at La Casa de Amistad in South Bend.

Through the arts, the Center has also developed creative interdisciplinary courses such as Art and Social Change and Dancing in the Street: Music and Social Change in the USA.

All are welcome to visit Geddes Hall to view the works on display. Learn more about Arts of Dignity at the Center for Social Concerns, and see a digital version of the exhibit here.