Students launch initiative for art

Visual and performing arts senior Victoria Brill featured her painting, “Untitled II,” at a recent LOTUS project exhibition. Photo by Madeline Ambrose | Mercury Staff.

Started this May, the LOTUS project is displaying student artwork throughout buildings on campus.

Global business senior Sh’muel Avraham launched the organization to help spread artwork beyond the galleries.

“We (provide) campus spaces to student artists to push exploration and appreciation of the arts on campus,” Avraham said. “It’s a community project, as I see it.”

After working on the project’s concept for two years, Avraham said he was able to turn his ideas into a reality when his proposal to the Victor Worsfold Grant Program was accepted. Through the program, which awards student-led activities that benefit UTD and communities beyond campus, Avraham received a grant that allowed his project to take off under the name of the LOTUS project.

Although the university administration established a new art gallery on the far northwest corner of the campus to fill the void left by the demolition of the Art Barn, the main part of the campus still lacks an outlet for the display of student art. Avraham created the LOTUS project for all students on campus to benefit from being surrounded by art.

“I used to go to the Art Barn when I was stuck on a project or needed ideas, because I always found that it helps me to relax and get different sources from the arts,” he said. “When you expose yourself to the arts, whether it be visual arts, music, comedy, theater, you get this unique perspective on different things. It makes you think. It helps to think beyond yourself and what you know and challenge yourself.”

To gather artists and artwork for the project, Avraham and his team contacted student artists whose pieces were featured at the Art Barn’s spring exhibition last semester. Victoria Brill, an arts and performance senior, is among the artists who got involved with the LOTUS project and shared her artwork. Brill’s oil on canvas piece, “Untitled II,” is one of the pieces on the current exhibition

“When they reached out to me, I immediately reached back because art opportunities on campus are very hard to come by,” Brill said. “When people outside of the art community on campus wants to make a connection, it’s exciting.”

Arts and technology sophomore Ben Zerbo initially became involved with the LOTUS project as an artist, but later joined the team to help with marketing and general assistance instead.

“We have a few sculptures in ATEC, but other than that, you look at the walls and they’re basically empty. The project is basically livening up the campus, and I think it really encourages artists to make art,” Zerbo said. “And as an artist, I love the idea of bringing more art to campus, especially art by students because that’s inspiring to other students.”

The LOTUS project has been collaborating with the School of Management to display student art in the JSOM atrium stairwell, as well as the JSOM II printing lab on the second floor. Avraham said he hopes that as the project grows, it will be able to showcase diverse art pieces on the campus. The project team is working on getting in contact with the administration of various schools at UTD to allow more artwork to be featured.

“We want to expand to Green Hall, SSA, SSB and other different buildings on campus,” he said. “I really want this to be something that binds itself to the student body.”

In addition to providing an artistic environment for the larger student body, the LOTUS project team hopes to to help student artists push themselves, Avraham said. Unexpectedly meeting artists on campus — such as a police officer who is also a tattoo artist and a facility manager who is also a sculptor — is another reason he was inspired to create the LOTUS project.

“I realized we have this really strong undercurrent of people who really need to be brought to the forefront,” he said. “We really want to see the artists grow and hopefully get connected to the industry.”

Avraham said he hopes that having artwork displayed on campus will encourage students to visit the newly opened SP/N Gallery at Synergy Park North 2.

“I’d like to see the support for arts and humanities on campus,” he said. “We can put a lot of art up in the buildings, but we can’t be very experimental because we have to stay within the guidelines.”

With the student population rapidly growing, UTD has the potential to be like other universities that have robust art programs, Avraham said.

“I’m really forward to seeing how students embrace art on campus,” he said. “I think that’s a really big part of what UTD can become.”

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