Reflective Blog Post: The Art of Kazon

On the second floor of Erwin Hall, there’s a piece of art on the wall. The piece is sandwiched between the Office of New Student Programs and Sponsored Research to name a few. In the middle of the wall is a steam print piece completed by Steve Prince in 2017. Phrases, animals, faces, and other iconography encircle the people around it. The colors of these icons are red, white, and black work as the focal point of the art piece draws people in.  The focal point is the family and their teddy bear. The family and their teddy bear allow the viewer to read this piece from right to left, left to right, or in any direction one sees fit. As I look over this art piece, I smile.

“We created this,” I thought as I turn away. “It was something of a group effort.” I walk away from the art piece and into the Study Abroad office where I was heading in the first place.

The work of INTD 288 is a group effort. From the professors and staff like Catherine Adams and Garth Freeman to the students, TAs, and professors we all worked off each other own skills to discuss Steve Prince’s artwork and whose interpretation. Through this reflective blog post, I will use Geneseo’s alma mater to discuss topics like embodiment, memories, and problem-solving; each discussion will be separated by each line of the alma mater. These topics will be helpful in explaining how everything we do is some form of group effort.

Music is one way we work together. In particular, colleges across the United States and internationally have an alma mater. The Latin phrase “alma mater” translates to the school, often college, in which someone graduates. In John Ayto’s Word Origin, the term alma mater is used in English to refer to a person’s former school or college, thought of as a place of intellectual and spiritual nourishment. The alma mater, varies from school to school, with some being longer than others. At SUNY Geneseo we also have an alma mater:

Shine the sun down on her halls of wisdom, where memries linger and our. Thoughts remain Sing her praises out a cross the valley, that echoes our refrain Geneseo, Geneseo, send us on our way-Geneseo, Geneseo, with our life’s work we’ll repay

It is a cheesy song and one can argue that this is a publicity stunt for SUNY Geneseo Alumni Association to beg for more money. It is cheesy because it is a song that is overused and most students, staff, and faculty do not want to sing about donating to SUNY Geneseo especially with Geneseo’s numerous problems. At the same time, it is a valuable song. Each line manages to reflect the importance of a collective group effort. Specifically, the alma mater is a representation of group effort and how all of us are reliant on others to live and thrive.

Shine the sun down on her halls of wisdom, where memries linger and our…

What is and is not recalled is an important question and within the first line, we are left asking: where do our memories linger? Better question, what do our memories and experiences embody? I ask this question because our memories and experiences embody themselves into our experience and furthermore into collective groups. To begin, we will discuss the impact of the embodiment and its connection to the alma mater.

Embodiment is “a way of describing porous, visceral, felt, enlivened bodily experiences, in and with inhabited worlds.” It is essentially how and what ways people’s lived experiences are lived through their body. The Triqui people are an example of embodiment. The Triqui people are an indigenous group of people from “the western part of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.” The Triqui indigenous community, as discussed by Seth M. Holmes, embody the stereotypes and preconceived notions projected onto them, such as workers for their small stature after hearing this over. Embodiment carries over into conversations on minority stress or in explicit institutional policy like with redlining. Embodiment can happen to all of us, especially when we experience stressful situations commonly. It is not limited to a particular socioeconomic identity however it certainly affects particular identities like the Triqui people. Therefore embodiment is how one’s body reacts and lives these stresses and experiences, whether it is through lived experiences or memories.

…and our. Thoughts remain Sing her praises out across the valley,

Steve Prince’s work incorporates a collective group working with each other. In likeness, the alma mater focuses on how our thoughts remain in Geneseo long after we graduate or leave Geneseo. These two share a common understanding of how reliant people are on others. Without the support of those we care about or without general support, it often hurts us negatively. For example, an affirming environment is critical to people’s success and when you provide people with affirming environments they excel and take advantage of opportunities (Rebeiro 2001). Unfortunately, Rebeiro’s analysis does not consider socioeconomic identity as part of their study. Thus collective group work is complicated; however, to begin that step, one must create an affirming space for people.

Geneseo manages to both create that affirming space and not create an affirming space at the same time. Geneseo is both a bad place and a good place. Geneseo is an exceptional school and I have created so many memories here. From my first involvement in the ToKnight Show, a Student Ambassadorship project done in 2017 by Jenna Lawson, to working as an Office Assistant for the Office of Diversity and Equity/ Center for Integrative Learning, I thoroughly enjoy being part of the student community. At the same time, I am resisting some of the problems that exist at SUNY Geneseo within my blog series. What matters here is that Geneseo is collectively a very great school but can also be very unpleasant to be at times. It is unpleasant because these issues negatively affect my education and my life beyond Geneseo. I carry these issues beyond the class and I sometimes leave campus to feel like I can escape these issues. Like with Steve Prince’s work, my collective work and experiences at Geneseo live in a period of being both positive and negative.

that echoes our refrain Geneseo, Geneseo, send us on our way

Within our mutual work, we remind ourselves of the present and past work we do. I am working in congruence with others and it is a collective effort. At the same time, that work, whether on campus or off campus, is a product of the past. For instance, my involvement within ACE is a byproduct of SUNY Geneseo being originally a predominately white institution. Organizations like ACE came in response to the institution never having us directly in mind. From Pride Alliance to Black Student Union, they amongst many other recent or new multicultural programs or services are products of this past.

The verse echoes to the past and also reminds us to go on to resolve the past. Some argue that this sentiment is too deep and over-analytical, I argue that being slightly over-analytical is essential. This song is echoing to the past as much as Steve Prince does in pieces like “Urban Mixtape”. The piece reflects both forward motion and backward motion depending on if you look at it from left-to-right or right-to-left. The left shows characters and figures slowly transitioning into people, and with the woman and the musician as the ending. In my interpretation, this piece represents ideals like the future as much as it represents the past due to how it can be read in both directions. The alma matter does something similar. Geneseo echoes the past, the present, and the future in how Geneseo treats everyone who comes and goes.

way____Geneseo, Geneseo, with our life’s work we’ll repay

The final line can and in fact should be understood as SUNY Geneseo wanting to take money out of your pocket. It is, like with every other college, a business that is trying to sell itself to you. One could even argue that we Geneseo student, faculty, staff, and administration are fools to participate in an institution that has shown time and time again that it is not the best at supporting its faculty, staff, or students.

At the same end, to repay our work could also mean fixing the problems within our institution. While it may not be our responsibility, it certainly is an issue that affects all of us. Underlying institutional problems like a lack of transparency to bigotry are issues of many institutions, but what makes Geneseo unique is that we as a collective are making that step towards fixing the problem. Each of us with our own individual ideas, actions, and identities are trying to make that change. It is not easy and the work is super scary, but no one said this process would be easy.

In the same way, Steve Prince and everyone within the course is aiming to either change Geneseo and/or change themselves. We all signed up to be part of SUNY Geneseo’s community and as such, many of us would like for the college to be a place where we grow alongside it. Geneseo is not perfect, but it’s home to our friends, family, and memories. Some of us sat in Starbucks and studied while others hit the gym at Schrader. It is all extremely similar to any other college, but for those who sing the alma mater or participate at Geneseo, the significance is much greater.

In this way, this whole journey through my blog posts was all a collective work. From the very first time I stepped into INTD 288, to my participation on campus, it was thanks to others I could do it. I wanted to create change and I was never alone in that effort. Whether it was trying to motivate my friends to come to dinner or push them to come to another college event,  it was a collective effort and the alma mater– and more so, Steve Prince’s work–represent that.

I recall telling my friend this piece of advice when my friend and their roommate got into an argument. I told them:

After all, the reason we get scared of losing something or someone is because we become more and more attached.

Attachments are important to who we are and Steve Prince did the same. He is attached to his roots from New Orleans as much as I am to East Harlem. My journey is a collective art piece that I did not realize I was building until now. Like the art of Steve Prince, I was building my own portfolio of friends, family, and connections. I could even call it The Art of Kazon. Though that does sound cheesy and I do not know I would want it to be like that. Though at the same time, it may not be cheesy. That in lies the experiences I am building and that feeling of: “and/or”. It is cheesy and it is not. It all was and is a matter of perspective. That very much applies to SUNY Geneseo and its beautifully cheesy lyrics.

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