UCC launches “Healing Through Art” gallery, hosts inaugural display

The inaugural gallery showcase centered the theme of “transformation” and featured artwork by students.


Abigail Henthorn

UCC promotional gifts on the welcome table at “Healing Through Art” Gallery Night as photographed on Nov 8, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Abigail Henthorn)

Abigail Henthorn, Staff Writer

The University Counseling Center (UCC) hosted its inaugural “Healing Through Art” Gallery Night on Nov. 8, featuring artwork by students and opportunities for attendees to engage in stress relief activities. The theme of the gallery was “transformation,” and, according to psychologist and UCC outreach coordinator Ruth Howard, the program was launched to make students feel less alone in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Vanderbilt students, who hold many different intersecting identities, have been navigating their experiences at Vanderbilt while also coping with a pandemic and sociopolitical unrest in the US and across the globe,” Howard said. “We hope the artwork can offer an opportunity for the students to feel seen and understood.”

Howard organized this event with help from UCC director Todd Weinman and other UCC staff. The event featured three student submissions that will remain on display in the UCC waiting room. Among the submissions was an interactive canvas titled “Dawn,” a ceramic bowl that did not have a title, and a photograph titled “Plume of Mushrooms,” which went on display after the event due to water damage. These pieces will remain on display in the UCC indefinitely, but will not include the artist’s names for privacy purposes. 

Graduate student Salma AshShareef, the artist of “Dawn,” chose to share her name with The Hustler. According to AshShareef, the piece reflects the physical representation of a person’s journey from a dark place towards healing, and includes a cut-out in the canvas that a viewer can pull down themselves to reveal a human figure. Her piece was accompanied with a description of the meaning of the piece.

Salma AshShareef’s “Dawn” in the waiting room of the UCC, as photographed on Nov 7, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Abigail Henthorn)
Salma AshShareef’s “Dawn” in the waiting room of the UCC, as photographed on Nov 7, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Abigail Henthorn) (Abigail Henthorn)

“As they enter the healing realm, their arm becomes decorated with the brightest of colors and so will the rest of their gray body as they move further into this portal. This reflects the change within them as they begin to find peace and light,” AshShareef’s description read. “The ‘Healing Through Art’ event was a wonderful way to showcase student art as well as learn creative healing activities.” 

The event also featured self-care programming for attendees, including a “Let It Go” art activity where participants wrote or drew something that was no longer serving them on a piece of water-dissolving paper and placed it in a bowl of water to watch it melt away. 

“It’s really nice to see words that don’t serve you anymore swell up to the point I can’t recognize them anymore,” first-year medical student Yunong Bai said. 

Howard said she is hopeful that the UCC will continue to conduct similar events in the future. 

“As this is the initiative’s first year, we are grateful for the three students who bravely submitted artwork to be displayed. We are hopeful that this initiative will continue to grow in years to come,” Howard said. “Identities really matter. Student voices matter and matter at every level. I would like to see more students making decisions. Any way to amplify student voices.”