Student art exhibit shines a light on survivorship

By Chloe Salveson and Cedar Earlywine, Multimedia Show Manager and Staff Writer
Newswire photo by Kate Ferrell
Student-led art exhibit “Shadows and Lights” features a number of
pieces that were created to highlight and showcase trauma and healing

The “Shadows and Light” art exhibit, hosted by the Confidential Peer Support Volunteers, showcases student art for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The gallery’s pieces focus on the process of healing from traumatic experiences. 

The exhibit is a collaboration of multiple organizations on campus, including First Year Seminar (FYS), Campus Advocacy, It’s on X and the “Art of Expression” course. 

Sarah Ely, a graduate student intern for the Confidential Peer Support Volunteer Program, organized the event. 

“I’m hoping that it is able to showcase one student’s creativity. I know everybody isn’t into art, but a lot of students can be creative in other ways, like photography, singing or playing an instrument,” Ely said. 

The goal of the exhibit, she explained, was to offer students, faculty and staff the opportunity to display both the light and darkness that may be present when healing from trauma. 

“(This gives) Xavier students, faculty and staff a voice to express that on campus and let other people know what they’re thinking about different things that are happening in the Xavier community,” she added. “It lets their voices be heard.” 

Ely partnered with Professor of Classics and Modern Languages Madeleine Mitchell, who created the FYS Art of Expression course. Mitchell holds at least two student exhibits a semester.

“The theme for this spring’s exhibit had to be about reflecting on the year we’ve all been through with COVID-19 and all of the other challenges (and) hardships individuals have endured,” Mitchell said. 

“We came through the hard winter and approached the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ with spring, religious celebrations of renewal and vaccinations. It was a good time for people to think about aspects of their lives that have been painful or difficult and choose to hope and heal,” Mitchell stated.

Though these traumas may bring up pain for the artists involved, Mitchell found it important to honor the ups and downs of the healing process.

“I think it’s so necessary to really showcase both the good and the bad sides, so I think that it has been effective in that regard. I think the people that submitted artwork really enjoyed the experience,” senior psychology and French major Rachel Barth — a peer support volunteer and a contributor to the exhibit — commented.

Barth created her own musical piece with her sister for the exhibit. Her piece was inspired by the song “I Believe You” written by American singer and trauma survivor Fletcher. 

“(Fletcher) is letting people know this happens to everyone, even celebrities too. When I first heard the song, it was really powerful. It spoke to me personally, and it was truly a healing song for me too,” Barth described. 

“That’s why I decided that I wanted to record it and post it on Instagram: to show other people a song that helped me through a really tough time and then kind of hoping that that would help other people as well.”

All members of the Xavier community are welcome to submit pieces to the exhibit, regardless of the type of trauma they have experienced. 

“(I now understand) how different trauma can look to two different people and how diverse the healing process is. I saw through some of the artwork that to me looked bizarre, but to someone else was a really impactful drawing and meant something to them. I think just kind of understanding the differences in healing,”Barth noted. “You can’t just put healing in a box. There’s so many diverse ways. It’s a long process, but it’s also a really beautiful process.”

“Shadows and Light” will be displayed throughout the rest of April on the second floor of Gallagher Student Center and on Instagram @peersupportxu. Email a photo or video of your artistic expressions to