Incoming students create their own First Year

Art created by incoming first year students hangs in the Coffman Art Gallery as a part of the

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Art created by incoming first year students hangs in the Coffman Art Gallery as a part of the “Design Your First Year” exhibit of on Saturday, September 5. Students were asked to represent what they hoped to get out of their first year, looking forward to new experiences.

Grace Kramer

This summer, incoming freshman received a white rectangle containing a single “M” logo in the center. Given full creative license, the new students took on an artistic task: to create a design showing their emotions regarding their first year. 
Two hundred and fifty students from the class of 2019 accepted the challenge to create Coffman Art Gallery’s recent exhibition “Design Your First Year.” The exhibition will have its opening reception Friday, Sept. 11
“We didn’t want this project to be intimidating and time consuming, so we provided small surfaces for the students to create their designs on,” Lisa Gruszka, a representative
from Orientation and First-Year Programs, said in an email interview. 
Every summer, incoming University of Minnesota students come to campus for two days of orientation led by OFYP. This year, OFYP coordinators Mike Dixon and Kelsey
Neigebauer teamed up with Student Unions and Activities Visual Arts Committee chairs CiCi Wu and Elise Armani. Together they produced the opportunity for students to get involved. 
“Each orientation leader brought their group to the design area and explained the project,” Gruszka said. “Students who wanted to participate were able to access a wide variety of materials and surfaces that contained the block ‘M.’”
For the students participating, the purpose of the activity is to channel their feelings on the upcoming year into something creative. 
“Our goal was to help students reflect on the transition they were about to experience and to connect them to the various involvement opportunities on campus,” Gruszka said. 
The exhibition displays designs by anonymous students that approach the subject from all angles. Small postcards as well as whiteboards were used to make the designs.
Some students decorated their work with words; others used symbols to express their emotions, such as a shark revealing its sharp jaws looming behind the M. 
Many of the designs are simple with a few patterns or colors, leaving the emotion behind it up for interpretation. 
Some students took a different approach and chose to take the challenge lightly. 
“Although not all the art reflects responses to these questions,” SUA representative Tricia Schweitzer said in an email interview, “the activity gave students the opportunity to think creatively around the concept of school spirit.”
The future of the event is unknown, but Schweitzer said she hopes to see the initiative continue.