MSW student curates online art exhibit giving voice to high school students

Tara Daniel in front of flowering trees

Graduating student Tara Daniel has curated a creative and meaningful online art exhibit to give voice to Lorain County high school students who are victims of sexual assault, and the result is powerful and moving. Learn more about Daniel and her work on the exhibit in this week's student spotlight.

Class Year: May 2022

Program/Major: Master of Social Work with a concentration in Community Practice for Social Change

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

How did this online exhibit come to fruition?

This exhibit was inspired by a demonstration at Lorain High School in January 2022. Around 250 students gathered their teachers and staff members into the auditorium and led a two-hour long forum where 50 students took turns sharing their stories of sexual assault. The students told the school personnel that they do not feel heard or listened to, and that their stories were being brushed off when they tried to tell a faculty member. I was so inspired by what they were doing because I, too, was victimized by sexual abuse when I was in high school. I wanted to create a way for these students to express their voices. I wanted them to be heard, listened to and believed.

I reached out to all 20 high schools in Lorain County and five of them participated. The theme of the exhibit is "You're Not Alone" because I wanted that message to be sent to those who felt like no one was supporting them. I went to each school and picked up the artwork to be photographed for the exhibit. I rented a professional camera and tripod from Case Western Reserve and reached out to the campus art studio—they let me photograph the 2D pieces there using professional lighting equipment. The gallery that I connected with, Firelands Association for the Visual Arts (FAVA), took pictures of the 3D pieces.

This exhibit will be featured in-person in November at a gallery called Creative Space Avon. It will be an expansion of this first exhibit—instead of showcasing just Lorain County voices, it will showcase student art from surrounding counties as well. There will be live music and refreshments, and I am very excited about it!

This exhibit began as a way to address the cry in our community for students to feel heard, listened to and believed. The project is meant to showcase the voices of high school students in the community—to let them know that their voices are important and deserve to be acknowledged and heard.

— Tara Daniel

What were you doing before coming to the Mandel School?

I was finishing up my bachelor's degree at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have a bachelor's degree in social work with a double minor in French and Spanish. Over the summer between my undergraduate experience and coming to the Mandel School, I got married and started a part-time job at a preschool.

Why did you choose to enroll at the Mandel School?

I was looking for an in-person experience that challenged me to think deeply about the work that I am doing. I was also originally a dual degree MSW/MNO student, but since starting my MSW internship at the Lorain County Prosecutor's Office, I have realized that I am more interested in the legal field than the non-profit realm, so will graduate with just my MSW next month.

Read more about the project and view the online exhibit through May 16