Alumna Caylie Smith’s “Make a Thing challenge” continues into the new year

Spanning the globe and generational gap, the online art project brings the Biola art community together.

Emily Coffey, Deputy Arts and Entertainment Editor

Last year, senior art major Caylie Smith began an unusual senior art project as a graduation requirement. Little did she know how much the project would grow, the impact it would have on the community and that her involvement would continue past her graduation date. 

HOW IT WORKS 

For this project, sponsors, who are professors and volunteers, fill boxes with art supplies, which get shipped consecutively to hand off to the next person on the list of people who enrolled in the project at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester. Each person takes a picture of the art they created using the supplies in their boxes, then sends it to Smith, who uploads it to the project’s Instagram account. The winner is the person whose post gains the most like on the Instagram account. 

But it gets more complicated. When participants receive their boxes, they must follow a set of rules included in the box. Also, different kinds of participants receive different prizes. An art professor is holding a BBQ for the faculty member who wins. International students who win will be featured on the Biola Art’s Instagram. The undergraduate or alumnus who wins will receive a piece of art made by a faculty member.  

There are also multiple kinds of boxes. Smith included an email chain of JPEG images for international students to manipulate, also under rules, since they can’t ship internationally. After many international students had signed up, Smith realized the importance of incorporating the global Biola community. 

“We have got to figure out how to get [international students] on board because the whole idea behind this is to foster community,” Smith said. “They’re the ones who probably feel the most removed.” 

COMMUNITY INTEGRATION

The purpose behind this project lies deeper than just encouraging students to create in an isolated time. The overseeing professor, Astri Swensdrud, weighed in on the development of Smith’s project. 

“She was looking at the way that liminal spaces connect to scriptural themes,” Swensdrud said. “So with this one, she was thinking about the idea of exile… She was thinking that was a nice metaphor for what we are experiencing right now.”

Liminal spaces are the spaces that lie between, as a concept visually and socially, this brought about the project that readers and viewers see now. Smith’s desire was to bridge the gap created by COVID-19 and the onslaught of Zoom calls and isolation the entire Biola community has been experiencing. 

Senior art and English double major Hannah Sapigao had this experience almost exactly. She participated in the physical box challenge and submitted her project a few months ago. 

“It was a really creative idea to get people in the art community at Biola to be engaged with each other even though we were all remote,” Sapigao said. “I like the idea that you pass it around and you change it.” 

Class of 2020 alumnus and art major Monica Bisocho also noted how the nature of art helped the project to really take flight. 

“[I really liked how] art can really bring people together, even though all of these things are happening right now,” Bisocho said. “[I liked] seeing all of the community art can bring about.”

CONTINUATION OF THE PROJECT 

The project was supposed to end with Smith’s senior year, but this proved to be impossible due to some logistical issues. Her goal was to have everyone who signed up get a box and be able to participate. However, due to the clogged postal services during the holiday year and quarantine, not everyone who signed up was able to get boxes before her senior presentation. So, she decided to see it through, having Swensdrud back her in this endeavor, so she could still graduate.

“It wasn’t about ticking a box,” Smith said. “It was about developing a professional creative practice, and that goes beyond graduation.”

The project will wrap up on Feb. 16, with the final winners coming out on Feb. 19. Keep watching the Make a Thing Challenge account for new content.

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