Focus on feelings

MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University’s first-ever anti-bullying art contest showcases a number of varied entries, ranging from videos to ceramics and everything in between.

The contest was open to students of all majors. The exhibit, titled “Sticks and Stones” will run through March 21. A reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday.

First place in the contest was awarded to senior ceramics major Nina Lehto for her piece “Safe Inside.”

The installation depicts a figurine hidden inside a ceramic pot. Lehto said it was a visual representation of how people who are bullied often retreat into themselves in an effort to isolate themselves from a world that is all to often hyper critical.

“Even in general, I suppose, when you have a certain tendency to introvert, try not to stand out, you sit in and you kind of subvert into yourself. It makes it easier in your life just to get by instead of standing out,” Lehto said. “Not being true to yourself just so you can get along with people and not get made fun of, in a way, ultimately it’s damaging to yourself and you kind of hide too far into yourself and you end up building huge walls.”

Lehto said she heard of the contest from a friend and fellow ceramics major and thought it would be a good opportunity to take a stand on what she said was an important issue while also supporting ceramics as an art form.

Drawing on some of her own life experiences, Lehto, 22, said bullying was a hard thing to understand.

“It’s just a thing that kind of happens. It happens too often in way,” Lehto said. “I feel like people don’t go out of their way just to be kind or to not be cruel sometimes. Sometimes, people are a little too insensitive to the world around them.”

She said she’s often drawn back to a quote attributed to a number of philosophers, from Plato to Aristotle: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

“If people just took that into account every day, I think people would be nicer to each other,” Lehto said. “It’s just crazy to me that people can be cruel for no real reason except to just make themselves feel better about themselves.”

Lehto earned $150 with her first place win. Second place was awarded to Nicolette Chastain for “Adhesive,” earning her $100 and the third place award of $50 was given to Brianna Cousins for her piece “Take a Stand.”

Lehto also entered a second exhibit, a suit of armor entitled “Heroine Addict.”

“It’s almost like a second piece to a series,” Lehto said, “because it went from this vulnerable, hiding person to someone who’s really thick-skinned.”

A final viewers’ choice award will be selected by viewers of the exhibit.

Located inside the University Center on campus, the Student Art Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays. Admission is free.