The 7th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium attracted nearly 350 students from all five undergraduate colleges and the School of Film and TV. Among the presenters were Ariana Sturr, a studio arts major, and Brea Hammonds, a theater arts and communication studies major.
Sturr, a senior with an emphasis in photography, is profoundly interested in humanity’s relationship with the natural world. A Northern California local, Sturr notes that she was inspired to create an art project titled “Earth Tones” after going on a backpacking trip through Yellowstone National Park and witnessing how the park’s thermal pools and hot springs are changing colors due to human pollution and trash. “I was blown away by this natural sacred space,” she said.
The art project, which “explores our evolving perceptions of nature at this time of environmental crisis,” featured sculptures, photos and installation work, and was part of a previous art show. For the fine arts portion of the symposium, she presented photos and a handmade book that summed up the show and her thoughts about the project. “It’s physical documentation of everything that went into the show and even the reception and my reflection on it,” says Sturr.
Clinical assistant professor Erik Benjamins notes that Sturr’s efforts to explore every facet of her project and the initial showing is a “professional reality” – working artists now have to be able to cover a wide range of mediums, and Sturr, who explored photography, sculpture and self-publishing in “Earth Tones,” did all of that with one project. “The fact that she’s going an extra step to explore the show after the fact is great,” he says.
Hammonds, a junior, used her writing talents and communication skills to examine the complicated and controversial issues faced on a daily basis by college students on campuses throughout the country. Hammonds wrote and directed a play for the New Works Festival last spring that “explores racism on college campuses with a sense of humor.” The play, which was also featured as part of the 47th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, covers a facet of racism – how to discuss race, racism and racist terms on a college campus environment – that isn’t commonly examined. “It’s something that I don’t see being discussed in plays, on TV or by the media. So I wanted to use my arena that I have at LMU to discuss it,” she said.
Hammonds notes that the play – she acted part of the play for the symposium – taught her a lot about writing and human nature. “It allowed me to understand people more,” she said, noting that the piece allowed her to analyze racism from a variety of different perspectives.
“It taught me a lot about myself as a writer,” she said, adding that she originally sought out the theatre arts because she loved acting, but this project has helped her to develop a new passion. “I found a new love for writing.”