Yandel Salas ‘25 Graphic Design Major

Coming into Wilkinson College at Chapman University this past fall as a first-year graphic design major, I would have never thought to consider how one class could change the trajectory of the beginning of my college experience. When I first saw the (First Year Foundations) FFC course, Exploring the Escalette Collection over the summer, I instantly knew it was one I wanted to take.

As I considered how the FFC courses related to environmental justice, I was hesitant, on the chance I might not understand it all; thus, upon seeing this course relating to one of my biggest interests – art – I knew I had to take it. The joy of having a semester of art and design related classes was something that kept me excited as I anticipated the beginning of my college journey. As a first-gen student, this anticipation rang true, as this class would be one of many that would become the foundation of my college experience, where I’d find myself in a community of students and faculty alike that would make me feel supported throughout the process of it all.

This FFC course is one I’ll never forget, as it opened my eyes to the vast array of art on campus and the deeper meanings behind them.

Each year Wilkinson College’s Engaging the World: Leading the Conversation program selects one theme to investigate deeply through curriculum, events, and art. This year’s theme was “Leading the Conversation on Environmental Justice.” In relation to the theme, part of the journey in our quest to learn about environmental justice and its relation to art, was taking tours to look at artwork in all sizes in mediums. For being known as the museum without walls, it surprised me to see how large of a collection the Escalletee Permanent Collection of Art held, as I was used to seeing artwork strictly in museum settings.

When looking back at the tours I took throughout the semester, one of the most memorable ones that comes to mind is actually one of our last. We took a walk to Cypress Street to see Emigdio Vásquez’ El Proletariado de Aztlán. A tribute to the working class, it was inspiring to see a representation of my Mexican culture through impressive artistry; with its proximity to campus, seeing Vásquez’ work made me feel at home, even if I wasn’t all that close to it.

Aside from going on tours, being in this FFC also paved the way for the hands-on opportunity to coordinate and curate an exhibition with works from the Escalette Collection. The “Food for Thought” tour, as it came to be known, is one example that provided a unique experience on its own, teaching me the ins and outs of the process behind coordinating a tour from scratch. The initial nervousness I felt at the start of the project was set aside, and I developed a newfound appreciation and love for the world of art and museum exhibits.

(Pictured in header: “El Proletariado de Aztlan” by Emigdio Vasquez.)