In a personal art installation titled “Colors of Hawaii,” Jihae Kwon shared she wanted to showcase the different colors, lives and experiences of people through photographs displayed in the McKay Auditorium foyer from Nov. 1 to 4.
“Everyone brings their own colors to Hawaii, which makes Hawaii so full of colors. This is so beautiful. Each person contributes to making Hawaii a beautiful place.”
Kwon is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Arts and Letters at BYU–Hawaii. She shared that her initial ideas for this project came from reports about the population of multiracial people in Hawaii.
“There was research done that… 24 percent of Hawaii is multiracial. It is the highest in the United States, so I wanted to show the different colors of people, not the skin color, but that each person has their own color.”
To her surprise, Kwon shared that this event also emphasized how racism is still a prevalent issue for students and locals in Hawaii.
“Although Hawaii is very diverse, there is still racism, and there is still racism even on our own campus. So, I wanted people to be able to see that although they experience it every day, that [life] is not just about the skin color or different countries we are from. It’s about our own individualism that we bring our different colors to make this campus very diverse.”
Kwon said she had students tell her about their dealings with racism on campus and how that inhibited their abilities to feel appreciated and loved on campus. She said she hoped this event helped break feelings of bitterness and sadness caused by racism and encouraged people to learn more about other people.
“When people don’t learn that there is beauty in difference and diversity, they tend to stick with what they are familiar with. They miss out on all the beautiful experiences they can experience.
“I hope that something like this can help people see beyond what they see with their physical eyes. We are all children of Heavenly Father, and although we are from different parts of the world, we all share the commonality that we are all children of God. We all want to love and be loved, and God is love. So, with that kind of love, we can overcome the differences.”
Kwon’s exhibit consisted of a folded book full of 24 portraits of personal friends, students, faculty members and even random people she asked to participate. Kwon said she specialized in making art books and designed this specific book to show the portraits of the featured people.
There was also an interactive poster where students could choose a color filter, have a Polaroid photo taken of them and stick it on the poster. “By people putting up their photos on the poster, they got excited. They are becoming apart of this diversity, and they are apart of the display.”
Seola Oh, a senior from Korea studying computer science, had her photo taken for the exhibit and shared, “It gave people the chance to express themselves in color… The colors they were choosing weren’t about their country, majors, skin colors, anything like that. It just depended on themselves, and I feel like there is more variety than I thought… I feel like they were choosing more than just a color.”
She also mentioned how important the choice of color was for students and how choosing these colors brought different emotions to students. “For example, two people could choose the yellow filter, and it means different things to each of them. It just depends on who chose the color and who is in the pictures.”
Similarly, Michele Crowley, a senior from California studying graphic design, attended the event and said participating in this event helped her feel recognized and apart of BYUH. She said it not only pushed for diversity, but creates a culture of unity and love amongst students.
“It was a nice way to show how varied diversity can be. I’m half-Guatemalan, but no one would know that by looking at me.”
Crowley also shared that at a previous college she attended, diversity was always acknowledged, but the feeling of unity was absent from everyday student life. Crowley shared that BYUH is different in this aspect.
“At my previous college, they pushed diversity as well, but nothing was uniting the students. Everyone kept to their own groups, and it was really divided. Whereas here, it’s so neat to have the gospel to bring us all together.”
Kwon said she hoped this event was a positive experience for the people who experienced the exhibit. She also shared she has plans to do this on a larger scale one day to fully showcase the colors of Hawaii.