ArtsLab makes visual arts accessible to students

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One student was so grateful for the new arts space on campus that he crocheted a little red hat – a sort of thank you gift. The 3D-printed dog, created to wear the hat, became both decoration and guardian, watching over the space Emory students wanted for years and finally got.

When Rizky Etika (20C) was a student at Emory, she and other student artists wanted a dedicated visual arts space on campus. This dream came true when Emory ArtsLab opened in fall 2021.

“I discovered that I had barriers to accessing the arts on campus,” Etika said. “I would have to take an Uber to an art store and pay out of pocket for all the supplies, so a space like this would have been a dream come true for me.”

A 3D printed dog wears a little crocheted red hat made by a student. (Emory Wheel/Ally Hom)

Tucked away in the back corner of the Cox Computing Lab, ArtsLab provides a physical space for students to access the visual arts. Unlike the Visual Arts Building, which is reserved for students of Visual Arts courses or those pursuing the Integrated Visual Arts Co-Major (IVAC), ArtsLab is a dedicated space open to all students. Located across from ArtsLab, Emory’s Tech Lab provided a model for distributing supplies such as 3D printing equipment, a laser cutter, and welding equipment that are not usually available to students. Like TechLab, ArtsLab has materials available for free and sold at a subsidized cost.

“I liked how they rented some tools and sold some things that cost, so it was really accessible to students financially and physically,” Etika said.

ArtsLab provides free resources for students such as brushes, charcoal, erasers and textiles. It also sells materials like paint, vinyl, and sticker paper at a discount. In addition, the center has a cutting service, a sticker maker and tools for jewelry and leather making. Of them cricuts, electronic cutting machines capable of cutting designs in materials such as vinyl or card stock are also available, in collaboration with TechLab.

ArtsLab hosts a variety of events ranging from community-wide “sip and paint” to events with clubs, like sticker making with Complex Residence Hall or light painting with Photo Club Emory.

After graduating from Emory, Etika became Arts Fellow Rosemary McGee, a one- to two-year post-baccalaureate program for young graduates. The position gave him the support needed to start ArtsLab.

In an effort to create a space suited to the artistic needs of students, she interviewed approximately 200 students. The interviews provided a basis for materials provided by ArtsLab this fall, such as charcoal and different types of paint. Etika also contacted peer institutions outside of Emory to learn more about their art spaces and created a budget with detailed inventory, down to the cost of each brush.

In May 2021, Emory Arts assigned a classroom in Cox Hall as space for the new visual arts space. The University modified the room to fit the exact purpose of the center by installing a sink, knocking down a wall, and ripping up the carpet.

“This all happened in two months over the summer, so it was really exciting to find this partnership,” said Maggie Beker, student engagement project coordinator for Emory Arts.

ArtsLab held its soft opening on September 7, 2021. Since then, the space has gained more equipment and supplies to fill the shelves, and the walls have bloomed with student art.

“We’ve been very careful to listen to students and we want to continue to do that,” Beker said. “If any students…are interested in both what they can do in this space and what this space could become with their input, we want to hear it.”

Since its inception, Artslab has quickly become a staple of the Emory community.

“When we opened our doors a student was so grateful she made us a little hat, so I 3D printed a dog at TechLab, painted it here and now it’s our little guardian” , said Etika.

In addition to providing supplies to individual artists, the lab provides free supplies to groups of students to encourage creativity.

“At an event party, there’s no cost for people to create, which is a nice, low-stress experience,” Beker said.

One of the most popular events organized by ArtsLab this year was the “paint and pinot” event, a painting and tasting activity where students had access to free drinks and art supplies.

“At the paint and pinot event, almost all of the boxed wine was full. People were so enthralled, there were people sitting on the floor, they were just painting and not drinking anything,” Beker said. “We thought the draw would be the food and drink, but the draw would be the arts.”

(Emory Wheel/Ally Hom)

The project has also helped university students to launch their own artistic projects. Cara Clements (22C) runs her business, Cara Mak Designusing materials and resources from ArtsLab.

Clements started the lifestyle boutique and design company as a hobby during quarantine to focus on creating women’s clothing and accessories. ArtsLab allows it to continue its activity via its website and Etsy of Emory.

Clements, who wholesales stickers in her business, frequently uses Artslab’s t-shirt press and sewing machines for her clothing lines. She said the center is a great resource because of “the accessibility it provides for students, especially students like me who own businesses that don’t have the space in their own rooms to have ‘equipment or different resources’.

After visiting ArtsLab during its soft opening, Clements became a regular and visited the center every other day.

“So many people on the Emory campus are incredibly creative in a variety of ways, and [ArtsLab] gives students the ability to access the resources to continue to fuel those passions and continue to learn new creative skills,” said Clements.

Future initiatives for the ArtsLab include expansion into other mediums, such as 3D work – including hand building and modeling – as well as increased arts awareness for all students.

“I also hope to develop art classes here as more casual classes where we can invite a professional artist and a local artist to maybe learn how to draw or paint,” Etika said. “Simple things that are less intimidating and perhaps more accessible to students.”

Although ArtsLab didn’t arrive in time for students while Etika was at Emory, prospective students will get what they didn’t have.

“We are living in a really exciting time right now where everyone, from students to administration, is interested in being part of the arts on campus,” Beker said. “I’m just excited about it and to keep working towards more because it’s never enough. That’s the best part about creativity: you can always do more. »

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