Art professor Joe Ostraff and his students collaborated with faculty and students at the University of Utah to create art that makes statements about immigration, globalization and classism

Students from Brigham Young University and the U of U came together to create art that tackles complicated issues currently facing society. The students’ drawings took the sentiments surrounding the problems and represented the concerns and fears visually.

For inspiration during the collaboration, students and professors from a globalization and inequality course at the U of U wrote two short stories summarizing their research on topics such as immigration, globalization and classism.

Groups from both universities, who were mentored by BYU art professor Joe Ostraff and professors Marcel Paret and Rudi von Arnim from the U of U, each received an 8-foot by 4-foot paper and one of the short stories.

The BYU group was assigned the short story “The Oasis in the Desert,” which explores various issues related to immigration. With the short story’s main argument and themes as the focus, BYU students began to draw, paint or write whatever they felt would portray their thoughts on the topic.

Instead of creating individual pieces that would highlight stark differences in skill and ideology, students collaborated to make something raw and honest. The art would be drawn on, drawn over and sometimes erased.

“We wanted the piece to feel more like street art, something communal and full of layers,” said Mandy Darrington, a senior art student from BYU.

Nearly two weeks after receiving their paper canvases, the two groups switched their work and stories. Students at the U of U were required to build off of what BYU students had already done, and BYU would do likewise with the work that students from the University of Utah had contributed.

“This was a back-and-forth response between two student groups. Everyone was thrilled,” Ostraff said. “This was more of a democratic public art — not an individual thing where talent or skill was measured but where voice and position were being contributed.”

After approximately two more weeks and many hours of work from both schools, students completed the drawings. The final pieces of art, along with the research and data found by the U of U students, were exhibited on the U of U campus in a pod placed directly on campus.

“The two drawings were a real complement to the work that the students from the University of Utah had put in,” Ostraff said.

Students from BYU enjoyed the opportunity to work with their peers from the U of U, despite often perceived differences in ideology. Jeffery Hampshire, a BYU sophomore studying art, was inspired by the seemingly symbolic collaboration between two schools that are frequently pitted against one another.

“It seemed fitting that our two schools, sometimes seen as rivals in a way, would work together to discuss topics of inequality and issues that can often result in separation or segregation,” Hampshire said. “By doing this project I felt a sense of connection to them and a sense of trying to resolve segregation — even within the state of Utah.”