GV writing and art students create unique stories at Desire: Storytellers / Storymakers


Courtesy: Professors Caitlin Horrocks and Renee Zettle-Sterling

Elyse Greenwood

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “desire” as “to long or hope for.”  In a societal and psychological context, desire is the force that motivates people to strive for more, aim higher and better themselves. To explore and demonstrate the energy of desire, Grand Valley State University writing and art students will soon collaborate in an exhibition that portrays the rawness of internal yearnings, entitled Desire: Storytellers / Storymakers. 

On Monday, April 1 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Calder Art Center, the collaborative exhibition between two GVSU departments will take place. The Advanced Fiction and Creative Nonfiction courses and Intermediate Jewelry and Metalsmithing course have come together to investigate all facets of the word “desire.” 

When Associate Professor of Writing Caitlin Horrocks and Professor of Art and Design Renee Zettle-Sterling decided to bring their classes together for this unique collaboration, it was important to find a theme that was applicable for both types of artists but would still allow the artists creative freedom to do something personally meaningful.

“Professor Horrocks and I talked about several different themes and settled on the topic of desire because jewelry is very much about desire,” Zettle-Sterling said. “Maybe we desire the value that jewelry projects, maybe we desire our grandmother’s brooch? Maybe we desire that engagement ring? This is not to say that the students were to write about jewelry, but it seemed like an interesting theme the students could use with varied responses. We all desire many things in our lives. It is a powerful motivation.”

The theme of desire is broad enough for writers and artists alike to explore a wide range of interpretations. The students aim to uncover the hidden desires that permeate almost every aspect of life. 

“In the context of fiction, arguably every story is about a character wanting something and trying to go after it or trying to decide what they want or desire,” Horrocks said. “The students took it in a lot of different directions. We had romantic desire in a more traditional interpretation. Other interpretations were the desire to be comfortable with yourself or to understand certain things about yourself, the desire to be someone else, the desire to figure out what we want, let alone to get it. There are different kinds of yearnings and meditations on that word.” 

Desire: Storytellers / Storymakers is stimulating, thought-provoking, and relies heavily upon interpretation; writing students leave their essays and stories in the hands of the Jewelry and Metalsmithing students who, in turn, have the creative freedom to visually describe the work in the manner in which they see fit. When all is said and done, the exhibition will be just as much as an unveiling experience for the original writers as it will be for the visitors. 

“It’s a rare opportunity as a writer to put something in the hands of an artist and see what they make of it visually and sculpturally,” Horrocks said.

Once the Calder Art Center is alive with sculptural necklaces, quotes on the walls, writer readings and more, the dialogue of desire between the written words and visual art will truly come to life. 

“I am most excited for the viewers to experience and reflect on the relationship between the written word and the potential for jewelry to carry a narrative,” Zettle-Sterling said. 

The exhibit will be open to the public from Monday, April 1 to Friday, April 5. A reception will take place on Thursday, April 4 from 5 to 7 p.m.