Survivor art installation to be featured in Community Gallery

Penn State Lehigh Valley exhibition runs Oct. 28 to Dec. 14
flyer of clothing on the ground

The "What Were You Wearing?" Survivor Art Installation challenges participants to engage with the universal connection we have with clothing and reflect on what gives this specific rape culture myth so much power.

Credit: Penn State

The Community Gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley presents “What Were You Wear? Survivor Art Installation.” The exhibit runs Oct. 28 to Dec. 14.

The “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation originated at the University of Arkansas in 2013. Created by Jen Brockman and Mary Wyandt-Hiebert, the project was inspired by Mary Simmerling’s poem, “What I Was Wearing.”   

Anonymous survivor stories will be displayed along with clothing the story describes.  Penn State Lehigh Valley students from RISE and Art Clubs will assist with the acquiring and installation of the clothing. Brockman and Wyandt-Hiebert offer all resources for this exhibition with the condition that the organization partner with an agency who supports victims of sexual abuse.

“Penn State Lehigh Valley is thankful to Crime Victims Council and Turning Point for their partnership. We are also thankful to Brockman and Wyandt-Hiebert for the resources they provided, as well as the campus and local support of this exhibition.  An exhibit of this nature calls for a community approach to understanding, supporting and healing.”

-- Ann Lalik, gallery director and arts coordinator, Penn State Lehigh Valley. 

This exhibition challenges participants to engage with the universal connection we have with clothing and reflect on what gives this specific rape culture myth so much power. To put clothing on is so basic and common, to take that action and conflate it with pain and suffering taints not only the individual outfit for the survivor; but also, calls in to question all simplistic and normal behaviors as dangerous.

The Installation asks participants to understand that it was never about the clothing and the act of shedding those clothes is never enough to bring peace or comfort to survivors.  The violation is not simply woven into the fabric of the material, it is a part of the survivor's new narrative. If only ending sexual violence was as easy as changing our clothes.   Instead it requires all of us to evaluate what enabled us as individuals and as a society to ask, “what were you wearing?” in the first place, according to the description of the installation on the KU website.

A panel discussion, titled “From a Perspective of Healing: Art and Social Service in Dialogue,” will be held from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14. The artist reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Penn State Lehigh Valley. The exhibit, panel discussion and reception are free and open to the public.

Guest panelists include:

Teri Haddad, filmmaker, "Close To Home: Human Trafficking, The Survivor Story"

Martha Posner, artist, “A #Me Too Project"

Representative of the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley

Catherine Hernandez, outreach coordinator, Turning Point

This exhibition and events are supported through partnerships with the:

· Crime Victim’s Council of the Lehigh Valley

· Turning Point

· Penn State Lehigh Valley Office of Student Affairs Marissa Ketcham

· Students in RISE and Art Clubs

The Ronald K. De Long Gallery will feature a companion exhibit “A #MeToo Project: Amy Arbus and Martha Posner.”

The Community Gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley highlights artists in the region specifically as an outreach mechanism to artist groups, as well as to student populations. It is located on the third floor on the west wing of the building and is located adjacent to the Ronald K. De Long Gallery.

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Sunday and campus holidays. For more information, contact Ann Lalik at [email protected] or 610-285-5261 or visit the Art Exhibition website. For campus hours, call 610-285-5000.