Community

Showcasing Diversity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality in Community Art Installation

Adler University student Laura Esposito

Laura Esposito

Faces of the Fox, an interactive community art exhibit, was created to showcase the diversity of the Fox River Valley in Illinois—an effort to bring to light the different people that make up communities. Laura Esposito is a student in the Master of Arts in Counseling: Specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in Chicago. While interning at do-over.me, an organization that provides professional support to people seeking meaningful employment, she helped founder Cynthia K. Wade start Faces of the Fox.

Many different variations of the human spirit were included in the art installation as possible, including, but not limited to, people who are diverse racially, ethnically, educationally, economically, religiously, mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually, and in their gender identification. By creating awareness of how vibrant and diverse all people are, the project hoped to assist the development of more culturally competent communities. The art installation had its closing reception at Adler in April 2019. Esposito shared her ambitions for Faces of the Fox with us.

How did the idea for the project come about?

Cynthia had the idea for the project, and I helped her make decisions and carry it out. We both decided on photographs, biographies along with who would take the photographs and who would do the biographies.

How did you find subjects for the photography and stories?

We created an application online that outlined the requirements and what the project was. People could nominate themselves or someone else, and they could remain anonymous. We posted the application on multiple social media platforms. Once we received applications, we contacted the subject and paired them with a photographer and interviewer.

How does the art reflect the question, “What is it like to be you?”

I think the photographers did a great job capturing who each person is in the photograph itself. Most of the participants have something or someone in the picture with them that they value or reflects who they are. The biographies allow us to learn more about who they are. They include words and phrases about their values and beliefs from interviews. We get a glimpse of what it is like to be these people.

Part of the mission of the project is to make communities stronger by acknowledging and embracing differences. How do you feel art projects like this can make diversity in communities more visible and promote understanding?

Art has a way of speaking to us without words. You can see the diversity in the communities by just taking a quick glance at Faces of the Fox. I think the photographs draw people in because they want to know why these people are being showcased. Maybe they will see these people when they are walking down the street or maybe they will start noticing the diversity in the area they live because of the art they saw. My hope is that people understand that diversity is all around them even if people look the same.

Has your understanding of the word diversity changed at all since working on the project?

Many times when we talk about diversity, we are focusing on race and ethnicity. Through working on this project, I have realized how much more it is. We tried to list every possible characteristic of a person that could be considered outside the norm of these communities. There was so much to include. We are all different, unique, and similar at the same time.

How do you hope Faces of the Fox will impact Adler University students as future clinicians?

I think the most important part of our job as clinicians is to understand our clients fully. We need to know what it is like to be them. We need to ask hard questions and learn what clients don’t visually display. When looking at some of the participants from Faces of the Fox, we wouldn’t know what makes them different from us until we read their biography.

View photos from the exhibit.