Students explore who they are through Identity Mask Art Workshop

The Center for Equity and Inclusion hosted the Identity Mask Art Workshop on Nov. 28 in West Coast Grocery room 104. Students who attended the event decorated masks and learned more about themselves in the process.

UW Tacoma professor Tyler Budge helped students paint and decorate plastic masks by having them focus on the question “Who am I?” Participants’ masks reflected how they see themselves, as well as how they think others in the world perceive them.

Event organizer Karl Tolentino, UWT junior and marketing student assistant for the Center for Equity and Inclusion, explained the importance for workshops, which focus on students being open with themselves and to others.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere for all students to explore, be open and to learn more about themselves and to be mindful of others,” Tolentino said. “We want students to express themselves through visual arts in a supportive environment. We also want to counter the labels or stereotypes that others may have placed on themselves. Finally, we want students to reflect on their own personal experiences that shaped who they are.”

Nasri Isaac, UWT junior, shared a similar thought with Tolentino, explaining that there should always be a supportive environment for students to go to.

“It’s always important to have a place that is not just about academics,” Isaac said. “These types of events help individuals and the community grow for the better.”

Professor Budge gave an introduction on the subject matter. He made it clear that this workshop would deal with some tough issues which everyone faces in their lives. Budge also talked about his own personal experiences and struggles, as well as the metaphorical masks he has had to put on in his life.

“Our life experiences and how others perceive us impact what kind of mask we put on in our day-to-day lives,” Budge said. “Sometimes, we wear smiles as masks when we really aren’t smiling. Sometimes laughter isn’t real laughter. Think more about what masks you wear every day.”

Students who dropped in for the event were provided a blank mask to start with. Materials such as paints, beads, ribbons, yarn, fabrics, tissue paper and markers were provided to decorate the masks.

Tolentino had previously created a mask with paints and two straws to represent himself and used that as an example for the workshop.

“I made a panda mask to represent my quiet nature, with the flag of the Philippines to represent my Filipino identity,” Tolentino said. “The bamboo is made from Starbucks straws because I drink a lot of Starbucks.”

Some students created their masks to show more about themselves, such as their likes, dislikes, personal goals and general dispositions. Jawahir Abukar, UWT sophomore, explained the thought process behind her mask.

“My mask is a royal purple because I want to hold myself to a higher esteem,” Abukar stated. “The ribbons celebrate my accomplishments, and the eyes represent everyone who is watching me. Finally, the red dots represent love — the love in this world when there is a lot of hate.”

Other students used their time to create masks that showcased how they believe others think of them, whether that be through labeling, stereotypes or just words which personally affect someone. Isaac elaborated on the design of her mask.

“My mask represents my hijab,” Isaac said. “It is a complicated answer, but I have experience with people mistaking me because of my hijab. They see the hijab, and they do not go beyond it.”

While this particular workshop was a standalone event, the Center for Equity and Inclusion has plans to host a workshop at least once every quarter.

PHOTO BY MITCHELL FERMO

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