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Reconciling Nature through Arts

By Arts & Culture, Featured

Human activities since the Industrial Revolution, both in terms of technologies and agriculture, amplify carbon dioxide emissions — one kind of greenhouse gasses. In the face of global warming, rises in sea levels, and the melting of ice caps, alongside other man-made disruptions like deforestation, mining, fracking, and pollution, people have been living in a time of eco-anxiety. Seeing the potential healing power of arts, both artists and curators have been examining ways to inspire actions and thoughts to mend the environmental impacts created.

Sharmila Wood — a Western Australia-based independent curator who investigates social change, history, and ecology in design and art — curates “Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology,” a traveling exhibition that is currently on display at Northwestern University’s Block Museum. Wood’s curation “considers kinship, healing, and restorative interventions as artistic practices and strategies to foster a deeper consciousness of our interconnectedness with the earth,” according to the curatorial statement.

This exhibition is produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, and coordinated by Chicago-based consulting curator Stephanie Smith, who curated “Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art,” a touring exhibition started at Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago in 2006.

Wood curates a highly diverse survey that features both international and intergenerational artists. Time-based media — like sound, video, and web-based arts, frequently marginalized genres among galleries and museums — populates this exhibition. 

Several works encourage visitor engagement and highlight interactivity. Katie West (b. 1988, Australia), a Yindjibarndi artist based in Noongar Ballardong country in Australia, interweaves a meditative space with her signature textile installation. She uses naturally dyed fabrics in her work “Clearing” (2019), which brings forth the color and scent of certain native plants into the gallery space. The suspended fabric spans almost the entire gallery on the first floor. With this shelter-like structure, West lays out various cushions for visitors to meditate on. 

Katie West’s “Clearing” (2019). Photo by Gordon Fung.

Compared to its previous iteration in TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, VIC as a commissioned work, the former site invites a significant amount of natural light into the museum. In contrast, the first-floor gallery in the Block Museum does not cater to these formerly existing elements. Accompanying the installation is a score composed by Simon Charles with a spoken score by Katie West. The sound component, however, was interfered with surrounding ongoing conversations by student staff in the area during the visit. This experience raised my attention to how a space and setup should be accommodated to maximize the audiovisual experience of visitors.

In the same area, there are works by Pauline Oliveros (1932–2016, United States), an early experimental electronic musician and pioneer of deep listening and sonic awareness. Several of her sound works are dispersed through pairs of headphones, which are more effective for a “deeper listening” while background sound is inevitable. 

Pauline Oliveros’ “Sonic Meditation” (1971–82).

Besides recordings, Oliveros’ six sets of “Sonic Meditation” invite visitors to take away with them and these include: “The River Meditation” (1976), “Urban and Country Meditations” (1981), “Give Sound/Receive Sound” (1981), “Follow Yourself” (1979) “Native” (1971), and “Breathe in/Breathe Out” (1982). “Sonic Meditations” was first initiated in 1971 and was published in 1974 as a short volume. It complies with a series of instructions, text, and scores that reimagine our relationship with sounds. In the “Introduction II,” she writes “Sonic Meditations are an attempt to return the control of sound to the individual alone, and within groups especially for humanitarian purposes; specifically healing.”

These instructive meditations guide readers to pay attention to their surroundings. For instance, “Follow Yourself” notes, “Listen to everything./Notice everything./Get a body sense of everything./Play a tone or make a sound and/or movement./Repeat this cycle indefinitely.” Through this mental aural training, listeners elevate their sensory awareness and state of being.

Yoko Ono’s “Painting for the Wind” (1961). Photo by Gordon Fung.

Continuing the narrative of text-based score and mental exercise, Yoko Ono’s (b. 1933, Japan) “Painting for the Wind” (1961), an instruction piece from “Grapefruit” (1964), instructs viewers to “cut a hole in a bag filled with seeds of any kind and place the bag where there is wind.” The conceptual framework, with no right or wrong way to execute, stimulates viewers to examine an action through both physical attempts and mental imaginations.

Cecilia Vicuña’s “Semiya (Seed Songs)” (2015). Photo by Gordon Fung.

Echoing the theme of seeds, Chilean multidisciplinary artist Cecilia Vicuña’s (b. 1948, Chile) “Semiya (Seed Songs)” (2015) — a single-channel video work — rekindles connection with earthly lives through her gentle touches and care to endangered native seeds in the Colchagua region. The tranquil closeup reveals the fondness for a deep connection between mankind and nature. As a personal pilgrimage to restoring well-being in nature, the intimate and genuine lullaby-like chant extends its healing power to the audience.

Besides connecting back to nature, Zarina Muhammad’s (b. 1982, Singapore) “Calendrical Systems for the Afterlife” (2022) invites audiences to connect to the spiritual realm. This altar-like mixed media installation includes two standing shelves designed as moveable shrines sitting on top of a round platform scattered with a fuchsia circle of incense. Engaging contributions from audiences, the instructions read, “[P]lease leave a note or object (palm-sized or smaller) that represents this sense of shelter, safety, and sanctuary.” 

This way of offering opens up a dialogue not only between visitors and the artist but also between visitors and their loved ones. What strikes the visitors immediately is also the fragrance from the incense in the installation, extending one’s sensory experience. Drawing spiritual practice from multiple cultures, Muhammad creates an inclusive space and portal to welcome visitors to contemplate their spiritual connections.

The inclusiveness of this exhibition in highlighting intercultural and intergenerational representation through a wide range of media is exceptional. It invites visitors to reimagine the power of arts to potentially reconnect us with nature through love, care, and kindness. 

To experience more, check out this exhibition at Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University in Evanston until July 7, 2024.

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Slay Station: Donning Pajamas to School? Absolutely!

By Featured, SAIC

Photo by Anastasi Elektra

For our second feature,  Slay Station welcomes Maria Kucheryuyy, a sophomore studying illustration with a burgeoning love for fashion. Kucheryuyyisn’t afraid to push boundaries, and her vibrant style reflects that adventurous spirit. Her outfit that day when I spotted her brightened my gloomy mood. The sharp contrast of bright red and green revived me instantly.

A: Maria, welcome to Slay Station! Your style is undeniably bold and full of personality. What’s your outfit choice for today telling the world?

M: Thanks for having me! Today, I’m rocking a red blazer with a contrasting green jacket, all on top of these leather pants. I love the play between bright colors, and it definitely reflects my personality.

A: Who is your favorite designer?

M: Alexander McQueen.

A: What about his work resonates with you?

M: Definitely the silhouettes! He wasn’t afraid to push boundaries with shapes and forms, and that’s something I try to do with my own style.

A: What’s your personal fashion motto?

M: It might sound cliché, but “Don’t be afraid to show yourself and be yourself!” is truly how I feel. Fashion is a way for me to express who I am on the inside.

A: Let’s talk about your fashion journey. I had known you for a while. You shared with me about  shifting in style after moving from Ukraine four years ago. Can you elaborate?

M. Back in Ukraine, things were more formal. Now here in Chicago, I’m drawn to the freedom of exploring color and composition, just like abstract art. My closet is filled with so many vibrant pieces!

A. Is there a specific color that speaks to you?

M. Absolutely! Red, especially bright red. It grabs attention and makes a statement, which is exactly what I want my style to do.

A. How does fashion play a role in how you interact with the world?

M: It’s a double-edged sword! The clothes I wear influence how people perceive me, and in turn, they empower me to embrace my true self. Bold colors symbolize confidence for me, a way of saying “I’m not afraid to be seen!”  Sure, some people might stare, but I don’t care. It’s a reflection of my personality, not theirs.

A: Any funny fashion stories you’d like to share?

M: (Laughs) Once at a rave, where everyone was rocking super revealing outfits, I felt completely covered in my “fit.”  Maybe a little too covered!  Instead of feeling self-conscious, I just started playfully staring back at the people staring at me. It turned into a funny memory.

A: Beyond clothes, do you have any favorite accessories?

M: My ring collection! Each one has a special meaning because it came from someone important in my life. When I’m feeling down, I just look at them and it brings me comfort.

A: How’s your Intro to Fashion class going?

M: It’s been amazing! I actually connected with my professor even though I was initially worried about judgment. He’s super open and encouraging, and it allows me to explore my creativity freely.

A: You mentioned a Ukrainian artist who inspires you. Can you tell us more about that?

M: Michael Koptev! His style is bold and unconventional, which really resonates with me. He’s all about self-expression through fashion.

A: Finally, how does the Chicago fashion scene compare to what you experienced in Ukraine?

M: Chicago feels more relaxed. Here, people don’t care if you wear pajamas to school, which is a big contrast to Ukraine where everyone is very trend-conscious.

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Loving the Monster: I’m Just …Godzilla

By Entertainment, Featured

Illustration by Uy Pham

The Oscars were set to be a pink grudge match as the “Barbieheimer” feud reached a boiling point. “Barbie” was a plastic, fantastic phenomenon;“Oppenheimer” swept award after award. 

And then “Godzilla Minus One” won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and the real history makers took the stage holding tiny toy Godzillas (and even wearing Godzilla-themed shoes). The award recipients were writer, director, and visual effects supervisor Takashi Yamazaki; visual effects director Kiyoko Shibuya; 3D CG director Masaki Takahashi; and effects artist and composer Tatsuji Nojima.

“Godzilla Minus One” was the first Oscar nomination and win for the franchise that’s been knocking down cities for 70 years. 

Yamazaki accepted the Oscar. He is the first director to win the award since Stanley Kubrick won for “2001: A Space Odyssey in 1986.”

Compared to past winners, from “Jurassic Park” to “The Matrix” to “Avatar,” as well as the films they were competing against this year, “Godzilla”’s team and budget were tiny. Shirogumi is the production company behind the VFX in “Godzilla Minus One.” The film had only 35 members responsible for 610 shots over eight months. A small team with a relatively small budget of only around 15 million dollars was tasked with bringing a massive monster to life, and their work paid off.

In the Press Room, Yamazaki used a translator. When he accepted the award, he read aloud his acceptance speech in English, even when the music tried to play him off.

My career began 40 years ago after the shock of seeing ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’ To someone so far from Hollywood, even the possibility of standing on this stage seemed out of reach. The moment we were nominated we felt like Rocky Balboa, welcomed into the ring as equals by our biggest rivals, which was already a miracle. But here we stand,” said Yamazaki.

Filled with references to American pop cinema, Yamazki’s words are especially poignant in relation to the rest of the 2023 to 2024 film and awards scene. There is a deep irony to the “Godzilla” franchise getting its first Oscar nomination, and this “Godzilla” movie, particularly, winning the same year that “Oppenheimer” took home Best Picture. 

“Godzilla” has always been a metaphor for the atomic bomb. “Godzilla Minus One” is set in 1945 with a former kamikaze pilot, Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) as its protagonist is coming home to Tokyo after the U.S. firebombing. He and the others he meets are dealing with the guilt of surviving and caring for those who are left after the war ends. All the while, Godzilla is mutating from post-World War II American nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, and he is approaching Japan. 

Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” the biopic-darling of 2023, is focused on the man who made the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Pacific side of World War II. The story follows the logistics of building the bomb, but ends with his struggle in 1954 to keep his security clearance after consorting with a communist.

These two films portray connected moments in time. But one focuses on the wide scale, destruction, and trauma of war and nuclear weapons; while the other fixates on the man who created that destruction. American cinema loves a war movie. But “Godzilla Minus One” makes American audiences face the reality of the U.S.’s role in war, both during and after.  

And unfortunately, if you didn’t happen to catch “Godzilla Minus One” in theaters back in December, it’s unclear when you’ll be able to see it. Unlike other Oscar-winning films, “Godzilla Minus One” is nowhere to be found. Not in theaters. Not on any streaming service, as of yet. Not even illegally uploaded on YouTube, besides a few clips here and there.

So why can’t you watch it?

Allegedly, it’s because of the newer, bigger, more expensive, more American, “Godzilla” film coming out at the end of March. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” a film produced by Warner Bros, is set to release March 29. Though not confirmed by the Japanese studio, Toho, who owns the rights to and created Godzilla, there is a notion that a contract is in place allowing for only one “Godzilla” movie a year to be in theaters. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” gets the 2024 slot, keeping “Godzilla Minus One” from coming back to theaters.

And so “Godzilla Minus One” is caught between the rock and the hard place of two American big-budget films: “Oppenheimer” and “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” Even though it didn’t have the splashy pink of Barbie, a small crew of five holding plastic toy dinosaurs left a mark and made us root for the “Godzilla” franchise, or at least this version of it. 

Maybe someday, we’ll all get to watch “Godzilla Minus One” from the comfort of our laptops or up on the big screen again. For now, we’ll just have to replay the clips we can find online and remember the tiny golden Godzilla Yamazaki carried around all night at the Oscars. 

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To my friends

By Comics, Featured Comics

Title: To my friends

Page 1
Panel 1:
Caption: Every time I talk with my friends back home, I am reminded of the fact that doing art in
college is not the norm.
*intense comic making * “This 8-page comic is going to kick my butt!”
*intense conventional college major homework* “So many… Lab reports…”

Panel 2:
Caption: Many times I’ve wondered what life would’ve been like had I pursued… business, or
science, or… law?

Panel 3:
Caption: But more often than not, I think about the friends that I’ve made through art, those who
have inspired me to commit to this practice… who have now changed to follow another career
“Hehe…Silly guys”

Page 2
Panel 1:
Caption: It was like a slap back to reality. It made me see how ‘passions’ could just seemingly
disappear, gone without a trace.
Me: “What college courses are you applying to?”
Friend who I’ve been boothing at art conventions with since I was 16: “Economics? Maybe…
Me: But why…

Panel 2:
Caption: It can be a very lonely feeling at first, but I’ve decided that to believe that passions
never really die out, instead they’re passed onto people that have been influenced by it. They
exist in the lives they’ve changed, in the paths they’ve redirected.
Their passions for art live in me, and I’ll always be creating in their stead.

Panel 3:
Caption: Even if they’ve not picked up a paintbrush since, even if they’re no longer in my life, or
this world.

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Bucks County Book Bans

By Comics, Featured, Featured Comics


Title: Bucks County Book Bans
By: Lily Christou

Page One

Panel One: Floating text reads: “As of 2023, Pennsylvania has the third highest number
of banned books in the country. Central Bucks School Board is currently considering at
least 65 books for banning. Below, an arrow points to a spot on an outline of the state of
Pennsylvania, with a caption reading “Bucks County PA”, a second arrow points so a
smaller region within Bucks County, with a caption that says “Central Bucks School

Panel Two: A young girl with a pony tail and glasses smiles. An arrow points to the girl
with bubble letters that say “Clara”. Clara says “Hi”. The caption floating next to her
reads: “My sister is a 6 th grader at a Quaker school just outside of Central Bucks. I was
curious about her thoughts.”

Panel 3: The caption asks a question from the narrator : “So, have you been talking
about book bans at school?”. The young girl, Clara, leans her head on her hand and
gazes to tge side, frowning. She says “Yeah. None are banned at our school because
we’re private”

Panel 4: Clara continues: “But they’re banning books with gay and queer people in
them because they sort of want to erase their identities”. Inside of a speech bubble,
there is a scene of a child wearing a shirt with an equal sign on it, sitting at a school
desk, looking annoyed as a teacher takes their book away, while saying “No”.

Panel 5: A pie chart titled “Books Recently Banned in America” shows that 41% of
recently banned books contain LGBTQ+ characters/themes. A small caption below
states that the information is according to literacy advocacy group Pen America. A
speech bubble, still connecting back to Clara reads: “Its stupid.”

Panel 6: Caption says: “Do you know any of the books that are being banned in
Bucks?” A speech shows Clara’s reply: “Oh yeah”. Next to the bubble three books are
floating: ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman, ‘The Girl from the Sea’ by Molly Knox
Ostertag and ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ by George M. Johnson. In the bottom right corner of
the page, Clara crosses her arms in annoyance and says “They’re all really good. My
teachers are having us read a lot of them because other kids can’t.” She continues, “It’s
just weird. Like why are they banning good books?” The narrator replies in the caption
box below, “Well, why do you think so?”

Page Two

Panel One: Clara taps her chin as she ponders her response “I guess that if kids aren’t
exposed to it, they won’t… Become gay.” The caption box below her speech bubbles
asks “Do you think a book can turn you gay?”. Clara responds: “No probably not.”

Panel Two: Caption box at the top reads: “What book are you most sad about other
kids not getting a chance to read?” In speech bubbles connected to panel one, Clara
says: “Probably Heartstopper. There’s also a good one called Melissa we read in 5 th
grade. It’s about a girl who gets bullied because she used to be a boy.” ‘Melissa’ by
Alex Gino floats behind the text.

Panel Three: Caption box reads: “What was your class’s reaction to the book? Did they
like say?” Two kids sit at school desks reading books. The speech bubble above them
connects back to Clara in panel one, and also down to the two kids, and it reads: “Oh
yeah. It was everyone’s like favourite book we read together. We were talking about it
and they were like ‘It’s so good!’ ‘Yeah!’”.

Panel Four: Caption box reads: “Are there any books you think should be banned?”
Clara has her brows furrowed in thought, as she replies “Maybe like any really
inappropriate ones. At schools? Maybe…” Another caption box reads: “What would you
describe as inappropriate?” Clara responds “I have no idea.” A small caption in brackets
says “I think that’s part of the problem”

Panel Five: Caption box reads: What do you think kids your age can do in response to
book bans and to anti-LGBT discourse at school in general?” Clara looks straight
forward with a determined look as she replies “I think it’s best to talk about it. Try to
make it more visible that this is happening.” Another caption box reads “For sure.”

Panel Six: Caption box reads: “Do you have any final thoughts?” Books float around a
speech bubble connected to panel 5 that says in bubble letters: “Bring back banned
books!” A final caption concludes: “Thanks, Clara”.

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Slut Saga: Fursuit Pursuits!

By and Entertainment, Featured

Rose Hellesen dressed in her fursuit of Silk and pointing at the poster and announcement wall on the 4th floor of the Sharp Building. Picture taken by Sisel Gelman.

Ready for more curiosity-quenching information on furries? Welcome back to “Slut Saga’s” collaboration with Rose Hellesen, an autistic furry.

In this final episode of the two-part series, we are excited to expand on the topics introduced in Part 1 and to talk more about the queer nature of the fursuit and the liberating experience of fursuiting. 

The fursuit is one of the defining practices of the furry fandom. It is, as mentioned in Part 1, a safe space for furries to celebrate their personality, gender identity, and more. 

But how did the tradition of the fursuit all start? 


Hilda the Bambioid 

In the early 1980s, most furry content was shared through amateur press associations which published compilations of furry art, comics, and writing to a small subscriber base, with one of the most well known subscriptions being Vootie, the APA which hosted Omaha the Cat Dancer. Back then, the main outlet of artistic expression — and what defined the fandom to outsiders — was its visual art (drawings or paintings). 

The rise of costuming in the furry fandom is the evolution of skills and resources that took the fandom from a 2-D space into its vibrant modern 3-D form. People challenged themselves to innovate how they brought their fursonas to life, and now fursuits have become the dominant image that people think of when discussing furries. 

Fursuits are the most tactile way a person can experience their fursona as a concrete version of themselves, rather than just an artistic extension. 

The concept of the fursuit emerged, like the fandom itself, out of sci-fi cosplay culture in the early ’80s. As we discussed in Part 1, the furry fandom first began as an offshoot of the sci-fi genre, and before the first convention in 1989 prominent members of the fandom like Mark Merlino often held meetups, known as “furry parties” inside their hotel rooms at sci-fi conventions.  

These cons had an established culture of cosplay, and so as the furry fandom grew into filling its niche, certain concepts were borrowed from the larger cosplay community. However, the creation of the first fursuit can be pinpointed to one man, Robert Hill.  

Hill, a cartoonist and professional Disney character costumer, made the first fursuit in 1988: a sexy dominatrix “Bambioid” named Hilda. (A Bambioid is a type of matriarchal alien deer created by furry artist Jerry Collins). 

Hilda’s costume is a deer character-head with a skin-tight, black, strappy one-piece suit and thigh-high boots. He sculpted Hilda’s head out of clay, “made a mold and fiber-glassed it,” and then sewed the rest of the costume together.

 Because of her design and the way Hill moved in the costume, most people thought it was a woman who was playing Hilda. In a way, Hilda is an example of what can be considered a cross between fursuiting and drag. 

One way to define drag is by the performance of exaggerated gender for entertainment or societal criticism. Drag queens (usually, but not always, men) will crossdress as women under a persona and perform a routine that can include comedy or satire among other forms of entertainment. 

Hilda fits this definition of drag as Hill, a man, would dress up as a hyper-feminine anthropomorphic femme deer to be entertaining and satirical at ConFurence Zero in 1989. In a way, one of the only differences between Hilda and other drag queen personas is that one is an anthropomorphic deer and the other is a human character.

It might be a coincidence or just a visible shift in the culture of the time, but the creation of Hilda the Bambioid coincided with the mainstream’s “discovery” of Ball Culture in 1990. Ball Culture —an underground LGBTQ+ subculture — developed in New York City’s Black, Latinx, and queer communities as a form of expression through performance and a way to comment on  and satirize topics of gender and wealth. Ball Culture had been a relatively insular community until the documentary “Paris is Burning,” and Madonna’s “Vogue” music video, brought it to the attention of white, straight culture. 

Of course, “Paris is Burning” and  Madonna’s music video should not be the sole way to learn about Ball Culture, and we urge “Slut Saga” readers to diversify their sources on the topic.

Drag was a key aspect of Ball Culture. The overlap between Hilda, Ball Culture, and drag implies that the 1990s were a time in which queer people were questioning the preconceived notions of gender, and challenging its perceived binary expressions. 

The Furry Fandom was as much a pioneer of queer thought and gender expression as non-furry spaces were (like those found in Ball Culture in New York City). 

And while not every fursuit today is related to drag, the radical self-expression that Robert Hill created in Hilda is still alive and well in fursuiting. Drag-like hyper-femme fursuits still exist in the fandom today, as seen in characters like Fiona Maray and masculine types such as those made by Mixed Candy


Furries and the Fursuit 

So, why wear a fursuit? Well, it’s one of the most visible aspects of the community (for good reason) and while it is one thing to enjoy and consume furry media, the fursuit is often seen (both within the community and outside of it) as the “final form” of a furry. 

And to fully articulate why, Rose is going to switch into first person:

Hello, it’s me, the skulldog you’ve seen on the cover of this article! While I could speak in universals, many aspects of fursuiting are deeply personal to my own experience. 

Why do furries fursuit? A different reason exists for each person. Here’s mine: This may be a shock, but I didn’t come into this world knowing I would dress up as a porcelain-faced skull creature. However, I did come into this world autistic. My experience of this world has always been atypical, and this was no different than when it came to perceiving my own self. 

The relation I’ve had to my body, and specifically my face, has been largely just one of identification; the most my face and I talk to each other is when I look in the mirror and go “Yep, that’s me.” It’s less of a homogeny and more of a tolerance. I always accepted that this discontinuity would be perpetual.

I tried cosplay in my early teens, but it never really felt right for me. The main problem I had was that at the end of the day, no matter how accurate my clothing was, my face was still my face. I felt mismatched in the impression I had of myself to how I knew other people would look at me. I knew who I was, but all people knew was what I looked like.

I had always had a passive interest in the furry fandom, mainly just because of how cute all the characters were. But as I became more discontent with the limitations cosplay had in expressing myself, I realized that there was something intoxicatingly appealing in the idea of a fursuit — the notion that I could completely encase myself in a new outer image that could be anything at all I wanted seemingly solved every problem I had with my self-perception.

I realized that I really, really, really wanted a fursuit.

And so, like anybody else during the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent the early months of 2021 online, specifically stalking the dealer’s den, a fursuit-buying website. I had some money from the stimulus check (remember those?), and I landed on a fennec fox! 

This fursuit partial —meaning it only has a head, paws, and tail— was being sold by a newer maker for $650, which is much cheaper than most fursuit partials (they typically sell for $1500 – $3000). I told my mom, whose only concern was that if I’d use the suit enough, that I wanted to buy it, and she agreed. I named my brand new fursona “Mabel“, and when I first put on the suit I was absolutely ecstatic.

Mabel was cute. I, for the first time, was cute. People told me I was cute! I wore her every once in a while, mainly for Halloween or for photoshoots — this was back in 2021 — so I didn’t have any conventions to go to. 

Jumping to 2022, Al from Part 1 of this series, expressed interest in having a fursuit for himself since he had seen how emotionally freeing it was for me to completely assume a new identity. We chatted for a while about what species this new character could be, and eventually, we settled on a “skulldog,” the fandom name for a skull-faced canine. 

As a trans-masculine man, he was especially drawn into the concept of creating a masculine fursona for himself. He wanted to lean into a refined, princely character, and a skulldog fit perfectly with the aesthetic. After countless revisions, we realized that a porcelain-style skull would articulate exactly what we wanted for the character, and figured if we were already going through the effort of making one, why not make two? 

Thus, the twin skulldogs Silk and Velvet were born, and just in time for the both of us to go to our first furry convention: Anthrocon 2023! While I had worn Mabel here and there, this was our first time going fursuiting in a furry-specific venue. 

Somehow, “life-changing” is still an understatement. For the four days of the convention, both Al and I wore our fursuits almost the entire time. It was honestly the first time I’ve ever felt completely, totally happy to be looked at. Almost constantly people were asking for our photos, telling us we were beautiful, and just supporting us expressing ourselves

There were over 13,000 attendees. Typically, because I’m autistic, I get overwhelmed in crowds after about half an hour, and even when I push through because I want to enjoy an event I come back absolutely drained, if not completely nonverbal. But fursuiting took away every single aspect of socialization that drains me since the fursuit acts as a physical barrier between me and the world.

Every sensory impression gets reduced in a fursuit: my vision is dimmed, about as much as the tint of sunglasses, my hands are covered in fur and bury any sense of touch, and all the sounds around me are dampened within a fursuit head. It’s also common for fursuiters to be what’s called a silent suiter, or a fursuiter that chooses not to talk, this is what both Al and I elected to do throughout our time at the convention. 

With all these factors together, I was able to experience a convention exactly how I wanted to. I still was able to socialize the entire time, but all the fear of being seen, all the overwhelming sounds of a public space, everything that made it so difficult for me, all of it was solved by a fursuit. There was continuity of how I felt within myself, and the image I projected to the world. I could finally interact with other people willingly and happily. The furry fandom created a space for me to represent myself and supported me as I showed off a true, genuine version of me. 

Rose Hellesen dressed in her fursuit of Silk sitting in the Sharp Building cafeteria. Photo by Sisel Gelman

Why do we do this? Well, every backstory is different, but I can confidently say that all fursuiters are united in the euphoric experience of representing themselves in a way beyond fashion or makeup. To be completely concealed in a fursuit creates a blank canvas for anything: any species, gender, fashion sense, etc. This complete reinvention of the self allows you to articulate exactly how you truly want to be perceived by others in a way wholly unlike any other.

To put it simply: we fursuit because we want to show the world who we actually are. 


So… Why are Furries Considered Cringe? 

Unsurprisingly, ableism.

According to health and science reporter Sarah Boden from 90.5 WESA, about 15% of Furries also identify as neurodivergent. Many of the traits that are associated with Furries — such as hyperfixations and an extreme special interest in their fursona — stem originally from the Autistic community. 

In Rose’s experience when furries meet each other, there is a visible excitement that is seen as impermissible by neurotypical standards. Actions such as jumping up and down or excitedly hugging are seen as too much by neurotypical standards because they do not fit into the mold of what is socially acceptable. The way the neurotypical system of oppression works is through intimidation and conformity. 

Neurotypical culture rejects and punishes neurodivergent behaviors by making them seem “cringey.” By making these behaviors “uncool” and assigning a negative value to them, neurotypical people have the societal green light to ostracize and ridicule people who present these traits. 

Therefore, the usage of exclusionary practices is weaponized to marginalize multiple communities at once: both furries and neurodivergent people. 

Dominant culture wants people to believe that furries (and by extension, autistic people and the neurodivergent community) are cringe and that this non-permissible cringe is natural, eternal, and truthful to the furry concept.  

It is not. There is nothing intrinsically cringey about being a furry. It is society’s framework that makes it seem like it is.

It is important to recognize the exclusion of furries in society as a systemic problem interwoven with other problems surrounding oppressive systems of power. 


To Conclude 

The world of the furry fandom is a misunderstood space of love, freedom, and authenticity. 

We hope that through this two-part series, “Slut Saga” readers have become more educated on the nature of furries, the community’s history, and its appeal. 

The furry fandom, most of all, allows its members to be liberated from societal expectations of gender and sexuality. The sex-positive, queer-friendly nature of the fandom allows it to thrive in ways unlike any other fandom space. While a love of anthropomorphic design is still at the core of the fandom, this design is used not just as an object of appreciation, but as a means of true, authentic, expression. 

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The Quilt Of Community

By Arts & Culture, Featured, SAIC

Illustration by Aditi Singh

On a little patch of land nestled between Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River, and in the dead and cold of winter, one may stumble upon a group of people in the woods who are glowing with warmth. These people are here because they want to be here, they are happy to be here, and they have come together to create not just art, but long-lasting memories and friendships. 

 When I signed up for the Printed and Patterned Textiles course at Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency, I did not know what I was getting myself into. It was a questionable decision to choose to spend a portion of the winter season taking classes in the middle of the woods. Yet, I had no question it would be an interesting time. What I had expected to be an opportunity to enhance my technical skills and expand my art practice turned out to be exactly that, and much more. 

The drive to the campus stretches along the river and is lined by the colorful life of Saugatuck on one side. The street is decorated with quaint little houses, trees, and the animals that live among them. The deer wander and weave through the buildings and cabins on campus. They may even join a class critique if it happens to be taking place outside. If you come across these deer, and I’m sure you will, I encourage you to exchange some kind words with them, but from a safe distance. 

“Why do these people seem so warm and alive in the middle of winter?” these gentle creatures might wonder. 

And artists might answer: “What we are doing, my deer, is warming ourselves with creativity.” 

We also warm ourselves by the fireplace at the Inn, which seemingly never dwindles or dies out. We love to embrace the warmth and the Inn is where we do that. The Inn is the heart of Ox-Bow; it is where the fire is always burning and often complemented by the tantalizing aromas flowing out from the kitchen. It is where the amazing kitchen staff cook and serve delicious and fulfilling meals, and curate the tasteful soundtrack that keeps the Inn alive. 

The Inn is where people gather to share food and conversation, and it’s where we take our coffee breaks after spending hours in the studio. It’s comforting to know that there is almost always going to be someone at the Inn to talk to, or a group of people to play Spoons or a game of Uno with. But if you come across an empty Inn take a moment to appreciate the silence. 

Finding that silence can be important when everyday is filled with new twists and turns, it can be easy to spend your time talking through projects and thinking things through with other residents to understand new perspectives and appreciate new ideas. It can be exhausting as much as it can be exciting. But we keep going because we have fun doing it together, and because we enjoy learning together. 

There is a lot to experience at Ox-Bow and it is difficult to fit it all into two weeks. There are many people to talk to, places to explore, chickens with “Fraggle Rock” hairdos that you might say hi to, and potential ghosts on the top floor of the Inn that may ask for company. There are also experiences and memories that cannot be put into words, for they exist solely between the people who formed them.

Imagine a tapestry of colorful strings stretching from far distances, and in the center of all space and time these strings weave together in beautifully intricate ways to form a quilt of unspeakable comfort. Now imagine wrapping that quilt around you, while you are sitting by the fireplace with friends it seems you’ve known for years, though it’s only been two days. If I remember correctly, that quilt is at Ox-Bow, on the couch of the Inn. And if not a quilt on the couch, it’s the people, it’s the conversation, and the times we shared. 

I left Ox-Bow with not only newfound friendships, but also a deeper understanding of myself and my artistic journey. So if you ever find the opportunity to venture out into the Tallmadge Woods Nature Preserve in Saugatuck, MI, no matter the time of year, take the chance. It’s very likely you’ll find these wacky people making art, and have a time like no other.

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Copper Oddesy: Hard Candy

By Comics, Featured Comics


Celeste: Miss Boxer, I brought Valentine’s Day hard rock candies for the studio!

Celeste: I know chocolate’s usually the thing but these looked cooler! Also cheaper…

Boxer: Well, Celeste, first of all it’s March, and also you really shouldn’t have.

Celeste: Oh no, I love you guys and these were che-

Boxer: Are you familiar with the Printmaking Gods? There is one in particular that doesn’t like Gum Arabic being used in the wrong way, and hard candy‘s on that list.

Boxer: That’s why we stick with chocolate.

Celeste: O-oh… I’ll put these away! I hadn’t heard of any Printmaking Gods.

Boxer: Oh, it’s much too late darling. Ta ta.

Celeste: What!?

God of Gum Arabic: IT’S BEEN YEARS…

Boxer (off-panel): Monitor taught you how to do Litho, right?


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SAIC NTT Faculty Demand a Fair Contract

By Multimedia, SAIC


On March 28, 2024, The AIC Workers Union hosted a Protest rally in front of the Mclean Building on the SAIC Campus. Adjunct faculty, lecturers, and professors gathered to voice their grievances about the unfair contract that has been under negotiations for more than 8 months. Their chants urged the administration to meet their demands soon, as the Union continued to fight.

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Spaces for us are few and far between; SAIC Muslim Students Speak

By Featured, News, SAIC

Illustration by Shina Kang

“Sehri” or “suhoor”, the time to eat before the fast or “roza”, ends when the time for “Fajr”: the first Namaz (prayer) of the day, starts. The time changes everyday, all in accordance to the subtle changes of the earth’s  revolution of the sun. 

Back home (Pakistan), Ramzan is observed very differently than here. The youth barely sleep, choosing to capitalize the time where chai and coffee is allowed to work through the night and catch up with friends who are similarly awake. They’re responsible for rousing the parents an hour and a half before Sehri time ends, to start preparing the food. 

In my house, it’s usually my sister and I who make the chai, fry eggs and heat up the leftovers. My mother makes the rotis (bread). My brother spends the night revising his recitation for Taraweeh, and my Dad and Dadi join us half an hour before the end of Sehri. That’s when we all sit around the table, and discuss our plan for the day. Workplaces and schools alike change their timings in Ramzan, aware that everyone who’s fasting will get tired early, irritable, and inattentive as the day progresses. Work ends an hour earlier than usual, school classes are shorter, afternoons and early evenings are spent napping. The time before sundown is divided between reciting the Quran and preparing Iftar (Fast-breaking evening meal). Everyone’s in the common space, we all have our roles and responsibilities.

Living in Chicago, so far from home, the routine is very different. All the responsibilities are one person’s alone, and the term “community” is lost between the edges of disinterest and apathy in American society. Waking up at 4 a.m. to eat alone would be impossible if not for my roommate and friend Zara, and going through the day would be incredibly hard if I didn’t have a group of friends who are accepting of the toil of fasting in my general mood. 

A few days before Ramzan started, I went out to actively look for others who would be observing it in the school. Most of my day was spent on campus, and I was eager to sit and talk to people who were either getting ready to experience it the first time on campus or people who had already witnessed a Ramzan at SAIC.

I met Jannah Sellars, Art Therapy (MA 2025), at a screening by the SAIC Arab Culture Club. Jannah was perhaps the fourth Muslim I’d met in the school, and so the decision to approach her was easy. We spoke a bit at the event, and we decided to follow up later on call. “The school acts like they aren’t even aware about Muslims being a thing,” she said, “we talk about accessibility a lot in the department. Where is it now?”

Jannah was frustrated at the lack of community building openings through the school. “At this point, just an acknowledgement from the school will be great, because it [Ramzan] is a big deal. They should’ve sent letters to Professors regarding the need for possible accommodation regarding classes and lower energy levels of Muslim students, a memo to them about prayer timings, and dietary restrictions in case they’re bringing something for the class. They should do something for Muslim students to feel seen.”

Part of not being seen as a Muslim was because Jannah struggled with carrying out the basic need to pray due to lack of accommodations in the school. “Sometimes I have to pray by the dumpster because it’s the only secluded space. They’re very few and far [spaces to pray] and also shared so there’s no privacy. Even the few meditation spaces they have aren’t shared publicly. No one even tells you where things are.”

When Jannah voiced her frustrations, she was referred to a representative from the Cultural Oasis. “I spoke to her and never heard back, never saw any changes,” she shared.

She also spoke about the lack of care for Muslim students regarding the Cafeteria. “There are no halal options in this cafe. They should have that at least in Ramzan.”

This sentiment was echoed by Abdullah Alghamdi, another student I met at the screening who’s also President of the Saudi Student Association club. He shared his experiences of the previous Ramzans he has spent on camus and said, “Even if you wanted to eat food that doesn’t contain meat, the Cafeteria closed before the Azaan time [signaling the breaking of fast] so we had to get food from the few places that are open after 6 p.m. or buy it beforehand and keep it somewhere until we could eat.”

One of the few people I was connected with when I started looking into Musim advocates at SAIC was Danyah Subei (MA 2025), a graduate alumnus from the Art Therapy department. She spoke about the lack of recognition and acknowledgement she felt as a Graduate student and Muslim in her years here. “[Their take on me as a Muslim was] very don’t see, don’t talk about it,” she said. 

“They were torn between not acknowledging my religion but also tokenizing me at the same time,” she said. “[You] end up playing the position of the advocate, the person who asks, the pioneer, and that is a huge undertaking,” she continued.

In Danyah’s second year, she and a few other graduate students joined the department faculty meeting. She took the opportunity to speak about how she had been there for almost two years and how she still had no space to pray. “After the meeting, my supervisor reached out to me, and she offered her office for my prayers. She said that they [the faculty] didn’t know about my struggle, and that’s not it, you know. Her office was great, but sometimes she was there, sometimes she wasn’t, so it wasn’t that I could always rely on it,” she said.

She spoke about the lack of meditative space or prayer place in the Art Therapy department. “It’s such a core principle in our practice, how is this possible? Most of our studying centers Western Psychology, where’s the curiosity of other practices and cultures? All it tells me when I talk to these people is that you’re not trained to work with people like me,” Danyah added.

Some of the conversations she had with the people affiliated with the department cemented her opinion that this (SAIC) was not a place that understood where she came from. “I [took that feeling, and] held onto it, kept my guard up, and repeated to myself that this is not where I belonged,” she concluded, regarding her three year experience at SAIC as a Muslim student.

As an International Muslim “alien”, I’m not foreign to the feeling of displacement. Every interaction where people are too stiff, too cold, and balk at my name, or when I excuse myself to pray, raises the question; is this Islamophobia or racism? Either way, you learn to coexist with the fact that your existence is uncomfortable or alien to those around you, but to echo what Danyah said, it’s imperative to acknowledge how much space these places offer you. So far, SAIC is failing to meet us at the bare-minimum.

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Recontextualizing African Art

By Arts & Culture, Featured

Faye Edwards, Gallery Owner, and Bernard Mims, Gallery Curator from the Faie Afrikan Art website

When you imagine the work that makes up the contents of an art museum or gallery what do you picture? Perhaps you visualize decaying oil portraits of former kings. Maybe old Greek figures carved from ancient marble, or large abstract creations that make you think your little brother could have made that. 

Now let me ask you another question: Did you picture any African Art? It’s ok to admit if you didn’t, it’s not entirely your fault. The art that fills our predominant institutions minimizes the variety and complexities of African and diasporic art. From my own experience at the Art Institute of Chicago, I’ve seen how the whole continent can be diluted to a single room at the end of a hallway hidden in the back corner of the museum, despite the presence of Africans in America since the creation of this country.

Historically, Black artists struggle to find space in the art world due to pre-existing infrastructures, including censorship, institutional racism, economic disparities, etc. The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement sparked a surge of cultural and artistic activism among African Americans across the United States and Africans globally. This ignited the emergence of Black-owned galleries and cultural institutions aimed at promoting Black art and empowering Black artists throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 

Faie Afrikan Art Gallery is a Black-owned gallery in Bronzeville Chicago located on 43rd Street. It is owned and operated by Faye Edwards, a longtime Chicago resident. 

Growing up, Edwards was curious about African art, loving the art of the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and found works created in Tanzania and Kenya remarkable. Intrigued by this diverse artistic realm, Edwards made many more trips to the continent of Africa after originally only visiting two countries: Mali and Guinea. 

Initially, Edwards had no intention of starting a business and began collecting art for her own personal enjoyment. But she found herself needing a place to store and display the intricate art that she had gathered. 

Edwards’ mentor, Lawrence Dan, used to own The Woodshop on 75th and King Drive in Bronzeville. Edwards credits Dan as revolutionizing the field allowing it to grow. 

“At this time, people weren’t selling Black art and he was the only one interested,” Edwards said. 

Dan created space for Black artists — African American and African — to establish themselves and create a path for Black curators to follow. This ignited the formation of the Faie Afrikan Art Gallery, which has been at their current location for 11 years.

 The gallery is a two-story building with a warm and intimate ambiance. Unlike the standard sterile white gallery walls, the space is painted in various neutral shades that complement the appearances of the art on display. Ornate rugs decorate the wood flooring while numerous sculptures, instruments, and paintings embellish the space. 

Edwards said the cozy space and unique smells evoke visceral emotions that visitors often experience when they enter her gallery, and I have to agree. 

Edwards said that many people understand African art to be solely for decoration or ritual. She wants to expand this narrative by showing that these creations have stories and often serve a purpose. 

Edwards added that it is important to understand where things come from and how they were used historically. She said she believes there are no experts in African art because the field is so vast.

To provide more information, the gallery keeps a collection of books on different aspects of African cultures —such as life, death, and afterlife— with the art practices that pertain to them. 

Edward explained that the concept of beauty displayed in the art in some African cultures  is very different from the presentation of beauty in occidental cultures. “There’s no way around it, you have to put in the time and effort to learn about the history and meanings of these works,” she said.

Though the gallery began with traditional art from past centuries, Edwards has also opened her space to contemporary works. She does clarify that the modern echoes tradition and she sees no dissonance between traditional and contemporary African art. 

An example is the recent photography installation by former School of the Art Institute of Chicago student and featured artist Isadore Howard. Howard graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts, now he preserves images of the Nigerian people and their various ethnic groups in their natural state through his unique lens, transporting viewers to his travels.

Edwards said that she would like to further the gallery’s outreach beyond the occasional talks and classes already hosted in her space. She believes that young people are very important to the preservation of this work. 

Exposing younger generations to this alternative form of presenting African art from the standard Western perception breaks institutional barriers. Edwards’ gallery brings African art to the forefront making it a topic of discussion, dissolving all sense of hierarchy, putting culture and education first.

All photos are linked to the original file in drive and are provided as RAW and JPG.

All photos, except the curators, are taken by me, Mya Jones.

First floor interior of Faie Afrikan Art Gallery. (2024)

Photographs by SAIC class of 1978 alumni Isadore Howard. (2024)

Paintings and sculptures along the basement wall. (2024)

Cozy corner of the basement where vintage furniture is decorated with dolls and fabrics. (2024)

Wall of paintings by Mr. George Crump. (2024)

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BFA Show Blues

By Featured, SAIC

Illustration by Aditi Singh

Over this year’s winter break many undergraduate students set to graduate in the spring of 2024 looked toward their final semester of study with panic. Frantic texts were made, social media polls were posted and emails were sent to the Department of Undergraduate Exhibitions. The subject matter? A significant number of students who had apparently missed the deadline to sign up for spring Undergraduate Exhibitions by a month without knowing.

The only communication the students received was a single email containing all of the registration information and forms for the three primary Undergraduate Exhibitions. This email was sent out on Nov. 17, 2023 and marked the opening of the registration period, which closed on Nov. 30. No follow-up email regarding registration was sent during or after this period.

In previous years, registration was in early February. No announcement of this change was made by the Department of Undergraduate Exhibitions prior to November, so students weren’t on the lookout for registration. 

Opening registration on Nov. 17, 2023 became a point of contention among students as it was also the day of the 2023 holiday art sale. Students tabling at the sale were expected to be away from their phones during this notoriously busy day. 

Honey Nilson, a BFA senior who was tabling at the sale said that while they were technically informed about the registration, the communication was insufficient.

“Without any follow up emails or anything else it’s hard to say I was really aware of it despite being informed,” Honey said. 

Several students were unable to complete sign up, many citing their participation in the sale as a primary reason for them missing the deadline.

Those who caught their missed registration early by communicating with advisors were able to appeal and be included in the exhibition within the following weeks. The real trouble came in late December when many students first began to realize they had missed registration for their senior exhibitions. Posts began flying around social media as affected students tried to make sense of the situation and find peers in the same boat. 

When the campus reopened on Jan. 2, 2024, the Department informed the students who had been in touch over the break that they would be unable to participate in exhibitions, but could submit their work to the Digital Feature, a slideshow that runs on the second floor of the 33 E. Washington galleries during the BFA show. Some students who pressed further were sent links to appeal their decision in early January. The appeal form was shared between students and posted online allowing a larger group to attempt to appeal. 

Graduating BFA senior Isabel,who asked to be identified with their first name only to protect their privacy, wrote an appeal letter that expressed the widespread concern.

“I have spoken with dozens of students who are in similar situations, and I am anticipating finding more. These are hardworking students who have been looking forward to this opportunity for years. Who have already begun planning and purchasing materials. Who are organized, on top of their emails, and have somehow still found themselves in the same situation as me. I would understand your lack of flexibility if this was an individual circumstance, but knowing how many students have been affected has led me to beg you to reconsider,” Isabel’s letter read. 

These appeals were unanimously denied with no explanation offered.

Students reported that they continued pushing though, emailing the department repeatedly. Eventually, on Jan. 30, the Department of Undergraduate Exhibitions sent out an email to all eligible students, including those who had been rejected previously, announcing that appeals would be available via request and were set to close on Feb. 8, 2024. A follow-up email reminder was sent on Feb 6, 2024. This announcement prompted many students to appeal a second time. These second appeals were largely accepted.

So why were the deadlines to sign up for BFA Spring show deadlines changed?

We’ve found that with a February registration deadline for the Spring Undergraduate Exhibition, students had very little time to submit appeals to participate and for those appeals to be reviewed before the start of installation for the exhibition,” said Trevor Martin, the executive director of exhibitions at SAIC.

According to Martin, the Department took into account student feedback, consulted with the dean of undergraduate affairs, and pushed the deadline to November. This would allow for a two-month appeal period in which the needs of students pursuing inclusion in the shows could be more widely assessed and addressed. The extended appeals period and added time for consideration by the department also meant that students who had appealed in early January and were rejected had an opportunity for their appeals to be considered.

The intention to extend the appeals period was not communicated to students at the time of registration. Mass communication about appeals were not sent out until after many students had already been rejected. 

The Department plans to take student feedback into consideration again and in collaboration with the academic advising team and the dean of undergraduate affairs, reevaluate how registration for undergraduate festivals is handled in the future.

Students have called for communication that is clearer, more easily accessible, and repeated especially when it pertains to events that are so central to the SAIC experience. 

“I have been an orientation leader for three years because of how much I believed in this school and wanted to share that enthusiasm with others and after four years here, most of that enthusiasm is gone because of how things are run and this situation really highlights that for me,” said Tess (BFA 2024) who requested their last name not be used to protect their privacy.

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