Art installation spotlights facilities management workers

Students’ photography project shows the caring hearts of four facilities management employees.

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Art installation spotlights facilities management workers

Photo by Amber Chen/ THE CHIMES

Photo by Amber Chen/ THE CHIMES

Photo by Amber Chen/ THE CHIMES

Rachel Gaugler, Freelance Writer

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When he is spotted in Stewart Hall, students line up to have even the briefest conversation with him.

That is how junior psychology major Alyssa Jupiter described Marcus Bonat.

As the last few weeks of the semester approach, six students took it upon themselves to create a project that showcases the stories of four facilities management employees for the Contemporary Photographic Practices class taught by associate professor of photography Kurt Simonson. The project is displayed around the Bell Tower. It features large portraits of facilities management staff workers Stella Moreno, Araceli Flores, Marvin Landaverry and Marcus Bonat with small anecdotes written by these individuals.

According to senior cinema and media arts major Emily Inaba, the whole team shared roles as they worked on the project. Inaba, sophomore studio arts major Beikai Namgung and junior studio arts major Ryan Delaplane took the portrait photographers of the facilities workers, while Jupiter and senior studio arts majors Sara Nordstrom and Kaylee Coates, respectively, shared post-production roles.

“I think it started [because] we were really interested in highlighting the people in Biola, specifically staff and faculty that have really affected our time here,” Jupiter said. “We were looking at people who aren’t as highlighted in the community… And we all have had experiences with some of the facilities staff.”

ENGAGING CONVERSATION

Inaba explained that their desire to focus on genuine relationships helped them decide who to choose for the project, because they each had a personal relationship with these four employees. Her relationship with Moreno started when Inaba lived in Blackstone during her first three years at Biola.

“We didn’t really talk that much except for one memory that I have where I was having a bad day and Stella just told me that I’m okay… So in the past there wasn’t really an interaction, but… now we have breakfast at least twice a week,” Inaba said. “I really feel like Stella has just become a mom for me…  It’s been really cool to have that kind of relationship established.”

Namgung explained how his friendship with Landaverry has grown throughout this project.

“We get coffee once a week. We just hang out and talk and he tells me about his family and it’s just fun,” Namgung said. “And I feel like I can learn a lot from Marvin. He used to be a construction worker, and he was telling me how to do things the right way, like be honest, be patient. Everytime we hang out, he tells me stuff like that.”

INTENTIONAL INTERACTION

Jupiter expressed her team’s desire to help others on campus see how impactful these staff members have been to them and the student body. However, in order to accomplish this, Inaba and Jupiter both explained that the project took a lot of time and patience in order to truly showcase the employees’ voice.

“A big part of that was us wanting Biola to get to see them the way that we did… [The photographers] spent hours with them. It wasn’t just a quick photoshoot kind of thing,” Jupiter said.

Inaba and Namgung took only a couple pictures of the employees. The rest of the time was spent simply getting to know them and their stories.

According to Inaba, the project took almost three months to plan and finish.  

“It was hard, it took a long time because we were really worried about exploitation,” Inaba said. “We really wanted to make it their voices, not just our voices projected onto them. That was the hardest part.”

RECOGNIZING THEIR IMPACT

The students asked each employee to write a short piece of advice for the Biola student body. Jupiter expressed her excitement that these employees were being recognized for the care they show students every day.

“Something we got out of it that we didn’t necessarily plan was when people would walk by and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, Stella! We love her!’ They had something to contribute to the art in that way,” Jupiter said. “It’s easy to get caught up in a missionary complex like ‘Oh, what can we give to them?’ but so much of it is what they gave to us through the experiences.”

Jupiter brought up Bonat specifically and how loved he is by the Stewart community.

“As individuals we are undeserving of their presence. Marcus has the sweetest glow about him and he’s so down to earth,” Jupiter said. “He has two sons that go here and he just wants the community to be as loved as he loves his sons.”

Looking back at the three months spent on this project, Inaba says she is just grateful that they decided to engage with these employees.  

“I think that in the end, it’s just so clear that they did way more for us even in this project, like them taking the time to meet with us and take photos or write the letters,” Inaba said. “It was a really long process but in the end, they were helping us through it.”