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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

    Students stand up to bullying through art

    NMU’s Student Art Gallery (SAG) is currently featuring an exhibit titled “Sticks and Stones,” which is part of an overall anti-bullying campaign being conducted by NMU.


    Two years ago, a student task force was asked to come up with ideas on how an anti-bullying campaign could be conducted to resonate with students in ways that traditional advertising falls short. Having an art contest was one of the ideas proposed.

    Cindy Paavola, director of Communications at Northern, who organized The Campaign alongside the Dean of Students Office, loved the idea.

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    “We have such a great outlet for a student art contest,” Paavola said of the Student Art Gallery. “It’s a great place to highlight the art.”

    Of all the projects pitched by the student task force, the “Sticks and Stones” exhibit was the first to come to fruition.

    “Because of [SAG’s] enthusiasm and willingness to have it, that’s the project we decided to go with this year,” Paavola said.

    The exhibit, which features various artists’ work in a variety of mediums, brings a spectrum of insight to a complicated and deeply delicate issue.

    “It’s very personal,” Paavola said of the exhibit. “It’s a wide variety of how to look at the issue in a way the institution could never do.”

    Student Art Gallery Director Breanne Kanak, a junior art education major, coordinated the exhibit with the communications department to help bring awareness to campus on an issue that exists just below the campus surface.

    “As a college student, it’s not something I think of right away,” Kanak said.

    Compared to previous exhibits, submissions were fewer for “Sticks and Stones,” prompting Kanak to extend the deadline by a weekend. She attributed the personal nature of the exhibit to the decrease.

    “I think a big part of it is that students are afraid to talk about what is going on with them, and who’s giving them a hard time,” Kanak said. “They are apprehensive to put that out there and let people know that they are having difficulties.”

    However, the quality of the work in the exhibit makes up for any lack of quantity.

    “On a general level, the work is very high-caliber,” Kanak said. “People are coming in and they’re very moved.”

    The exhibit was juried by an English professor, a representative from the communications department and an art and design professor. Cash awards were given for best in show, runner-up and viewer’s choice.

    “Those are our showstoppers,” Kanak said of the winning submissions. “There’s a reason they were given awards.”

    “Safe Inside,” submitted by a senior ceramics major, Nina Lehto, won best in show. The piece features a ceramic jar, inside of which is a small clay figure shaped as a man in the fetal position. The forlorn man is encompassed by a green and blue glaze around the inside of the jar, representing a protective layer from which he shields himself from the world around him.

    “‘Safe Inside’ was the idea that if you don’t stick out and you try to hide your inner self, you kind of retreat into yourself,” Lehto said. “You create a kind of a shell around you to keep you safe from anyone who could hurt you.”

    Lehto’s own experiences and familiarity with the issue of bullying compelled her to enter two submissions for the exhibit, both of which are on display.

    “I noticed that it was on bullying, which was kind of something that was close to my heart,” Lehto said.

    The concept of “Safe Inside,” Lehto said, offers a duality in purpose as it could extend to an individual who’s being bullied, or a bystander who takes solace in internalizing.

    “It’s kind of an introversion therapy,” Lehto said. “But not therapy, because it doesn’t work at all.

    “It just gets you by.”

    Overall, Lehto said she is glad to see the issue being addressed on campus in such a positive way.

    “It’s just important to show that a little kindness or even a lack of enmity goes a long way,” Lehto said. “It affects people more than we know.”

    “Sticks and Stones” will be on display in the Student Art Gallery until Friday, March 21. On Friday, March 14, there will be a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. in the University Center next to the SAG to celebrate the exhibit and present awards.

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