Student Work Featured at ArtPrize

Posted on: September 23, 2014

ArtPrize-WPThe work of College of Communication Arts and Sciences students, led by Associate Professor of Journalism Geri Alumit Zeldes, will be on display in the world's largest open-entry art competition - ArtPrize.

Their ArtPrize entry, titled "The Living History Project: Stories Told by Michigan's Oldest Old," features stories of four Michigan residents over the age of 85 as told through four-and-a-half-minute videos.

"The project bridges communication arts and sciences with its visual expressions and health research aims," Zeldes said.

Spanning a century, the individuals whose stories are told include a Holocaust survivor, World War II veteran, former kindergarten teacher who still dances and does Zumba at age 94, and a woman who met President John F. Kennedy who died at age 105 two months after being interviewed.

"Our goal was to document the stories of Michigan's oldest old, 85 years and older, elderly people who have really interesting stories that we would love to tell and share with the world," said Gabriela Saldivia, a senior majoring in journalism and Spanish and specializing in documentary studies.

The Living History Project can be found at the DeVos Place Convention Center, 303 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Mich., during the ArtPrize competition, which runs Sept. 24 to Oct. 2.

"To be here today reminds me of what great opportunities I have at Michigan State and with the journalism school," Saldivia said. "It has opened so many doors for me. I know this project especially will be a great piece for my portfolio, for going forward and for looking for jobs."

Besides the videos, the ArtPrize exhibit also includes a mannequin with a dress made out of pictures of Ronnie Fagin, the 94-year-old who dances and does Zumba.

"We included the mannequin to get people intrigued and looking at the videos," said Andrea Raby, a senior majoring in journalism and specializing in design and documentary studies. "It's really exciting to be a part of ArtPrize. I'm from Grand Rapids and have gone to it every year. I think it is really cool to be able to go there and show some of the work I have created. I am excited to tell people I have something at ArtPrize this year."

The Living History Project videos are part of a larger project for a TV/radio series to capture stories of Michigan's oldest old to provide a window to the state's rich cultural history and to gain an understanding of the thoughts of these older adults on their longevity, resilience and quality of life. The plans are to make 15 videos. WKAR Radio will select five to air in May 2015 during senior citizen month.

"I feel this project is very, very important, not just as an ArtPrize exhibit, but as something that needs to be delved into further," said Bhavya Thamman, a sophomore majoring in journalism and neuroscience. "I think the topics that it discusses, like age and just life as a whole, they're not just important in gathering the stories of these people. It's also very important in that it's creating so much awareness for age as something that we need to understand further."

Supported by a $15,000 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, the long-term vision for the project is to follow two or three of these older adults for a longer period of time and do a feature-length film on them.

The students involved in the project include Raby; Saldivia; Thamman; Jennifer Cermak, senior communication major; Asha Dawsy, sophomore journalism major; Anna Shaffer, sophomore journalism major; and Carmen Scruggs, senior journalism and Earth sciences major.

Assisting in the project are Eric Freedman, Associate Professor of Journalism, and Linda Keilman, Assistant Professor of Health Programs for the College of Nursing.

This year's ArtPrize competition will include 1,537 entries representing 51 countries and 42 U.S. states, and is expected to attract more than 400,000 active participants.

To vote, you must sign up for an account. Once you are signed up, you need to visit ArtPrize during the event and register to vote in person. You can do this by registering at the ArtPrize HUB, any exhibition center or any voting site, or you may use the ArtPrize mobile app.

For more information, see the ArtPrize website.

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