The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Uncovering the meaning behind student dorm art

For many Grinnell students, their dorm room is a home away from home, and every year, they find unique ways to decorate their rooms with artwork that reflects who they are and where they come from.

Posters and prints are the main staples for a college dorm room, so much so that the College has a poster fair every fall. With a poster or print available for almost everything, it is very easy to find something that speaks to each person.

Mitsuki Fujio ’19 has recently bought into this decorating style. While at home over winter break, Fujio visited an art museum that housed works by a Japanese artist, Yoshimoto Nara. He was immediately taken with her work, and after returning to campus, he purchased prints of Nara’s posters of an angry child, a girl with the word “HOME” on her head and a girl with one sparkling eye and one eye with a bandage over it.

For Fujio, these three extremely different prints of expressions serve as a comfort and a reminder to him that emotions are complex and acceptable. 

“I really like how a person has multiple dimensions to themselves. Even if … certain people always look really happy to me, they are not necessarily always happy. … Having those three different emotional faces and characters [in my room], I feel sort of safe. Sometimes I feel like, ‘Oh I’m the only one who’s so emotionally unstable’ … but having that variety of emotion on my wall … reminds [me] that I’m not alone,” he said.

For Julia Echikson ’20, prints of David Bowie and Jerry Seinfeld hang in her dorm. She finds posters appealing because of their convenience and simplicity. In addition to her posters, she also has a postcard with a picture of Frida Kahlo on it hanging near her bed. It serves as a reminder of the trip to Mexico that she took with her friend.

“She wrote such a nice note [on the back], so I thought ‘why not hang it up?’ Whenever I get back [to my room], it reminds me of her and a really awesome trip we had together,” Echikson said.

While some students search for art to hang, other students decorate their room with their own artwork. Having their own art on display in their room allows them to express themselves by way of something that is truly unique to their personality.

Mahira Faran ’20 has a passion for photography and has been taking pictures for seven years. She has scenic pictures that she took, mostly of the sky and ocean, along with pictures of her friends at the College and from home, displayed on her wall. She views them as representative of her photography journey. Faran has arranged her pictures on corkboards so that the scenic pictures surround the pictures of her friends.

“The pictures that I took make me feel proud of myself and happy. … It reminds me of all the places I went to and all those memories. And the pictures of my friends … remind me that college is not that bad, or that I’ve had some good moments,” Faran said.

Sanah Suri ’20 often creates art related to animals, specifically elephants. Suri’s focus on elephants started in an unconventional way, when she bought animal print cushion covers.

“I realized I didn’t have that many cushions,” Suri said. “The elephants were the easiest to color [on the cushions], so I just colored them, and it looked really cool.”

Suri also bought an elephant print tapestry and elephant-shaped lights to continue the theme of India, her home country. Her cushion covers are from India, along with two rickshaws and a painting she has hanging on her wall. Suri did not originally intend for the two themes to blend together, but it seemed to work.

“There are elephants in India, and I guess it’s kind of associated with that, so they went together,” she said.

For Kosuke Yo ’20, art is not defined as what is on the wall, but how it is arranged. Yo has a wide variety of art in his room, from his favorite record albums to pieces from different countries, to posters and even to political messages. He also incorporates the different senses with lights, speakers and a diffuser to create a more holistic artistic experience.

Yo’s art does not fall into a distinct category. Rather, he has a bit of everything. To Yo, art is not just about how each piece exists on its own, but also how different pieces work in conjunction.

“I don’t think that each piece of art has [much value]. … You can just buy these for ten dollars, but how I coordinate it in the room is all about my sense [of art]. I think this room is pretty much how I want to express myself,” he said.

For Amaris Bates ’18, the art in her room represents what is meaningful to her. She has a framed picture of her and Alfred Enoch, who she met while studying abroad in London, cards from her friends and family, mementos of Godspell and Next to Normal, plays she has worked on, and a cross stitching she made of a quote from The Princess Bride.

Going into college, Bates tried to decorate her room in a Pinterest-esque fashion. However, during her time at Grinnell, she developed her room decoration from focusing on what she thought looked cool to displaying what is personal to her.

“I think, sort of as the years have progress[ed], it’s been less that I have tried so hard, and more that I sort of stick things up as they come along. Everything just sort of comes with time and I’ve put it up as I’ve gone,” she said.

Like Bates, Esmé Rummelhart ’21 decorates her room with art that is meaningful to her. Her room is packed full of plants, pictures, paintings, lights and prints as well as art she made, bought from local Iowan artists or brought from home. She has a wide variety of art inside of her room, and each piece has its own value. Rather than trying to define the type of art she has into a category, she seeks art that makes her feel at home.

“The art I have in my room is less about expressing myself to anyone else, and more about the comfort I feel when I’m in my room and how I enjoy the ways in which art makes me feel,” Rummelhart said.

Like all of these stories, many students think about the art they incorporate into their rooms as more than just mere decoration for a pleasant look — their artwork is an essential factor in creating a comfortable and unique living space.

Kosuke Yo ’20 likes to create a unique mood in his room with various art. Photo by Reina Shahi.
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