Feminist artwork explores diversity, intersectionality, positivity

A piece by Olivia Thomson was one of the art works on display at the University Women's Centre first art show. (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

On a regular day, the atrium in the Student Union Building at the University of New Brunswick is filled with students studying and lining up to grab some food. But last week there was a different sight that broke up the cafeteria vibe – a display of feminist art.

The first-ever University Women’s Centre art show took place from March 11 to 13 for International Women’s Day. Alice Armstrong, the vice chair of the Women’s Centre, said it aimed to promote themes of diversity, intersectionality and positivity.

“[The display] was more like empowering women and not just art [by] all white cis-gender women,” said Armstrong.

The UNB Student Union collaborated with the centre to put on the show. It was an eclectic display of paintings, drawings, comics and sculptures. Armstrong said the Women’s Centre put a call out on Facebook to artists all over Fredericton to create art for the exhibit.

Alice Armstrong, the vice chair of the Women’s Centre, stands next to a flip board with people’s answers to the question, “Why is female empowerment important to you?” (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

Umme Rukhsar, a Women’s Centre volunteer and first-year UNB student, thinks the art in the show portrayed an important message.

“It conveys a meaningful context to the [viewers] and they can understand women are not a product, they are human beings,” she said.

One of the paintings showed stretch marks that blossom into flowers.

“It’s like, feel good in your body, feel confident in your body kind of thing,” said Armstrong.

Another piece was a comic of a woman walking home after dark.

“It’s essentially just the fact that a woman should be able to walk home safely late at night … It’s really cute. She comes home to her cat all safe and sound,” said Armstrong.

Ali Balcom, a fifth-year UNB student, wrote on a sticky note that female empowerment is equal opportunity for everyone. (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

Another part of the art show was a collaborative project. Two large flip boards were set up with sticky notes and the question, “Why is female empowerment important to you?”

Students were encouraged to write their own note responding to the question and stick it to the board.

Emma Walker, a volunteer at the Women’s Centre and first-year student at St. Thomas University, thinks female empowerment creates dialogue.

“It kind of gives us a reason to talk about things that aren’t always talked about and it gives us a way to motivate others and to teach others like how important it is,” Walker said.

Ali Balcom, a fifth-year UNB student, was pleased to see this question on her way to Tim Hortons in the SUB.

Umme Rukhsar (left) and Emma Walker (right) are both volunteers at the University Women’s Centre. (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

“Female empowerment is equal opportunity to everyone,” said Balcom.

Armstrong said even though it’s yet to be determined, the Women’s Centre hopes the art show becomes an annual event. She said they’re hoping to expand it in the future to have more art and more involvement from outside organizations.

For Armstrong, International Women’s Day means breaking stereotypes and using her privilege as a white woman to speak out for others.

“I think it’s about using your privilege to let people of colour speak and say what their issues are and bringing minority issues forward, so that we’re focusing on all women rather than just the privileged ones.”