MSU Union Art Gallery Exhibit Shows ‘Survivors As Themselves’

Glass wall with writing that says

A poem by Kimberly Ann Priest, Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, giving voice to the contradictory emotions and experiences arising from personal loss, is featured in the We Are Worth Everything: Survivors As Themselves exhibit now on display at the MSU Union Art Gallery.

“It portrays grief as a fraught, but beautiful, journey of evolving relationships, psychical spaces, and emotions,” Priest said about her litany-style poem, titled Celebrate. “The poem takes readers on this collective journey from head to heart, highlighting our social need to be valued, cared for, and celebrated as we process and integrate our personal experiences with loss.”

Priest’s creative work carefully observes the intersections between trauma, sexual assault, chaos narratives, and grief. Her poetry has appeared in several literary journals, and she is a winner of the 2019 Heartland Poetry Prize from New American Press. She also is the Associate Editor for the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry.

In addition to her poem, Priest is holding a workshop, titled Honoring the Journey: A Poetry Workshop on Creating Through Loss and Pain, as part of the We Are Worth Everything exhibit.

Photo of a poem on a wall
Kimberly Ann Priest’s poem titled Celebrate in the MSU Union Art Gallery


The workshop, scheduled for Thursday, March 12, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the MSU Room at the MSU Union Art Gallery, will focus on making things out of the emotions of grief, fear, and depression. It will weave object and experience to craft poems that give voice to the conflicting nature of our journeys as carriers of loss and pain and their accompanying emotions.

“We want people to come create, write, and map these journeys with us,” Priest said. “Emotions that arise from loss can be difficult to process, especially when they are stigmatized in public spaces or dismissed by those close to us. Nevertheless, these emotions continue to require our attention until we are willing to give them the care that they so desperately need. Psychology has long recognized the value of art in the process of working through these emotions because the act of creation, or making things, is empowering.”

The workshop is suitable for ages 13 and older and is limited to 24 participants. If you would like to attend, email Kimberly Priest before Tuesday, March 10, at priestk1@msu.edu. Include your name and contact information in the email and use the subject line: “Honoring the Journey Sign-up.” Attendees should bring a notebook and writing utensil to the workshop as well as an object or objects that reflect or memorialize part of their journey with a particular loss or pain. They also should come prepared to write.

Emotions that arise from loss can be difficult to process, especially when they are stigmatized in public spaces or dismissed by those close to us…Psychology has long recognized the value of art in the process of working through these emotions because the act of creation, or making things, is empowering.

KIMBERLY PRIEST, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

The We Are Worth Everything exhibition, which runs through Saturday, March 14, 2020, features portraits made in collaboration with Survivors by Judy Walgren, School of Journalism Associate Director, Professor of Practice, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist.

Walgren says the goal of the exhibit is to present images that reach beyond visualized trauma and triumph. In doing so, she hopes to present a more nuanced view of the courageous Survivors, expand the archive, and move their stories forward. 

“Visual archives are powerful devices for building and perpetuating cultural perceptions of communities, especially with groups who have been involved in traumatic events,” said Walgren, who is a photo editor, executive producer, curator, and writer. “During a recent online search using ‘Survivors’ and the name of an infamous abuser, the viewer is confronted with gridded images of extremely distraught women interspersed with photographs of a large group of women standing onstage during a high-profile awards ceremony.”

This exhibition attempts to expand narrowly focused visual narratives around the Survivor community from MSU and beyond. It is an ongoing project. If you identify as a Survivor and would like to participate in this project, please email Judy Walgren.