Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists.

—Marcel Proust

How often do you get to know your coworkers?  Not the ones you lunch with, but those you say “hello” to out of custom.  How about your classmates—not the ones you meet with at Starbucks discuss anything but class, but the others you pass by in the hallways?  (Did you know some of your classmates may be Chapman University staff?)  How often do you get to know your university professors, program advisors, managers, assistants, or directors?  Sometimes, we miss the truly amazing things about people, but thanks to the Leatherby Libraries Hall of Art, we can discover the hidden artists within our Chapman community.

For the last ten years (save for three during COVID), Leatherby Libraries has hosted the Chapman Staff Art Exhibition.  Dedicated in 2014, “The Leatherby Libraries Hall of Art was established to showcase the creativity of the Chapman community.” Early in its run, the exhibit only featured art by Leatherby staff; however, in 2018, the planning committee extended the invitation to employees campus-wide.

This year’s art featured employees in various colleges and other departments across the university.  In total, 21 artists submitted photographs, mosaics, key art, sculptures, interactive art, paintings, and needlework.  Per the exhibit program: “For many of the artists, this exhibit allows them the first opportunity to display their work publicly and has been a rewarding experience for them.” 

This year’s artists include Ashley Bloomfield, senior program assistant, Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education; Connor Bogenreif, career advisor, College of Performing Arts; Samantha De La O, senior administrative assistant, English department, Wilkinson College; Rita Desjardins, executive assistant, Argyros School; James Doti, president emeritus, Argyros School; Priscilla González, assistant production manager, Dodge College; Taylor Greene, chair of research & instructional services, Leatherby Libraries; Adam Hemingway, visual content director, Strategic Marketing & Communications; Cat Huskey, administrative assistant for faculty advancement, Office of the Provost; Julie Kennedy, art director, brand identity & visual strategy, Strategic Marketing & Communications; Tui Li, faculty assistant, Fowler School; Frank J. López-Andrade, assistant, Leatherby Libraries, Special Collections & Archives; Nick Maurer, development writer, University Advancement; Anu Nanjappa, graduate admissions & alumni engagement manager, Crean College; Essraa Nawar, coordinator of diversity initiatives & development, Leatherby Libraries; Laura Neis, research associate, Anderson Center for Economic Research; PJ Perez, director of marketing, Strategic Marketing & Communications; Alex Quintanilla, graphic designer, Strategic Marketing & Communications; Stephanie Wenning, assistant director of administrative operations, Fowler School; Peter Westenhofer, assistant director of artistic operations, College of Performing Arts; and Rose Yap Fryman, programmer and analysts, Information Systems & Technology.

Image of Priscilla González's photograph display.

Priscilla González shares the key art for two documentary films she directed.

A reception, held on July 27, brought the artists together with other members of the Chapman community.  It’s a “beloved event at Chapman,” says Caylin Schmenk, the Library Operations Manager and organizer of this event, “We get to highlight the staff” in a way that does not often happen.  For some, this is a first-time opportunity for artists to showcase their art.  “[They were] excited to see it,” she continues, “it opens other Chapman University staff members’ eyes to how art is interpretive and how they can participate next year.”

Among the various pieces are displays of culture, not just found in the United States but also from abroad.  In Nawar’s “Interfaithing” collection, she chronicles her decade-long expedition to “iconic places of worship and spiritual centers.” The title also represents her journey: “visiting different places of worship, engaging in interfaith conversations, and eventually in peace-building initiatives worldwide.” 

Image of Essraa Nawar's photography display.

Essraa Nawar’s journey of “interfaithing” brings nine photographs of places of worship taken abroad.

Bloomfield’s interactive display asks viewers to pen their emotional baggage on a slip of paper and drop it into a leather suitcase—which bears a similar color tone and texture to a satchel that was used to carry messages for the resistance in Europe during WWII and is currently on display at the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education.  Through these pieces, we can see reflections of passion, elements of the artists’ everyday lives (including professions), and a life lived abroad.  No credentials or resumes are needed for submission; it is as inclusive as it is diverse.

Image of Ashley Bloomfield's interactive display.

Ashley Bloomfield asks viewers to deposit their emotional baggage into a repurposed suitcase.

“We were thrilled to bring back the staff art exhibit this year!” says Schmenk.  “It demonstrates how popular this event is, seeing that we had the most submissions in the show’s history after a three-year hiatus!”  The exhibit will return next year, and a call for submissions will begin in the spring.

Through conversation, we can know a person’s character; through art, we have the pleasure of knowing their soul.  People will surprise you frequently, and the Leatherby Libraries Hall of Art proves there is always something to learn at the library.

About the Writer: Vesper North received an MA in English (’22) and an MFA in Creative Writing (’23) from Chapman University. While at Chapman, they aided in developing the Health Humanities minor and partnered with Leatherby Libraries to curate the Engaging the World: Health Equity bibliography and display.  They are a contributor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, assistant editor at TAB Journal of Poetry & Poetics, and their work has been published in various journals.  Their writing (fiction and nonfiction) often deals with health themes.