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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV fashion exhibition shines light on important issues

GVL/ Sydney Lim

A student fashion exhibition was on display in the Padnos Art Gallery at the Calder Arts Center at Grand Valley State University from Sept. 11 to 21. The exhibition titled “Dress to Protest: Fashion Activism” was created by students in ART 348– “The Body Adorned: Constructed Identity.” The exhibit addressed issues chosen by the students that were important to them. 

A reception for the exhibit was held on Sept. 21 in the gallery. Those in attendance were encouraged to wear protest shirts to represent the causes of their choosing.

The exhibition tackled themes and issues such as catcalling, gender roles and mental health. To accompany their artwork, the students also wrote an artist statement that detailed the background, inspiration and selection process for their topics. 

For the project, each student was asked to obtain and then modify a mechanic’s coverall to reflect their selected issue. For many of the students, modification of the coveralls involved painting, cutting, sewing, embroidery and adding accessories. The end goal of the project was for students to create a new wearable garment that maintained the identity of labor and unity associated with the mechanic’s coverall while expressing students’ opinions and artistic creativity on a blank canvas. The process took roughly four weeks. 

“The students just jumped right into this project even though many had no sewing skills,” said Renee Zettle-Sterling, Gallery Director for Padnos Student Art Gallery and Professor of Art and Design at GVSU. “Cutting into something and making a mistake feels so permanent but they helped one another and were fearless.”

Sterling said one of her primary goals in presenting this exhibition was to “create a conversation” at GVSU and to have a space to discuss these issues. 

Likewise, Elizabeth Pentecost, one of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibition, said that listening to “underrepresented voices” is something she hopes people will take away from “Dress to Protest: Fashion Activism.” 

Pentecost’s garment focuses on the ongoing persecution of transgender people in the United States. This issue is highlighted by the white painted lettering on the back of the coveralls that reads: “497 anti-trans bills in 2023 so far.” According to the Trans Legislation Tracker, there have been 568 proposed anti-trans bills in 2023, with 83 having already passed. 

“I hope that people are more open to listening to other people and their firsthand experiences,” Pentecost said. “I think a lot of these issues are as prevalent now as they’ve ever been here at GVSU.”

Based on the positive comments mentioned to her during the exhibition, as well as working alongside the passionate artists in her class, Sterling believes that this generation is primed to address problems that previous generations ignored.

“I don’t think 20 or even 10 years ago college students were even talking about these kinds of issues,” Sterling said. “Gen Z going to college right now has no tolerance for it (hate) because these are issues that are important to them and they are ready to talk about these things.”

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About the Contributor
Dylan Hoffius
Dylan Hoffius, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Dylan Hoffius is the Lanthorn's Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Winter 2024 semester. He previously worked as an Arts & Entertainment staff writer during the Fall 2023 semester. Dylan is a senior at Grand Valley State University, majoring in journalism, broadcast, and digital media, with aspirations to critique film and write for a sports and pop-culture outlet after graduation. He loves to watch movies at the theater, play disc golf and cheer for Michigan-based sports teams, specifically the Lions and Pistons. Follow his Letterboxd account for unbiased movie reviews and rankings. Graduating Winter 2024 Major: Journalism, Broadcast, and Digital Media