As students prepare for upcoming exams, projects and presentations, many may be in need of support from their community.
The Campaign to Connect: A Note from Me to You, hosted by Georgia Tech Arts and various partners around campus, ran from Jan. 10 to Feb. 15, seeking to fulfill that exact purpose. As a full-circle campus-wide letter-writing campaign, it gave the Tech community an opportunity to support others.
The campaign consisted of a series of tabling events at various locations, including the Campus Recreation Center, GT Connector, North Avenue Apartments and Arts Plaza.
“The intention behind the table events was to create more presence on campus, while collaborating with student organizations and resource centers here at Tech,” said Kara Wade, student and artist engagement coordinator with GT Arts.
An anonymous pen pal project has more meaning than just sending a letter.
“The heart of the concept is that when you give, you also receive,” said Nathalie Matychak, the assistant director of producing and residency with GT Arts. “The initial idea came from a meeting [with] a few of my colleagues and I had my very first week here at Georgia Tech. We were trying to brainstorm ways to get people excited to come to our shows that were scheduled for January and February.”
Although those shows have since been rescheduled or postponed, many of the themes present in the shows are still relevant to today’s world.
“How do people connect when it’s dangerous to connect? What does connection look like when the world is changing so rapidly?” Matychak said.
Both Wade and Matychak are new to their positions at Tech, and to get acquainted with different organizations and student groups around campus, they reached out to them to coordinate this project.
“When we spoke to them, we found out that our missions were the same after all,” Matychak said. “We ask each of our partners to bring materials about their programs with them — from stickers, to pins, to valentines, to chocolates — just like our letter-writing campaign is meant to uplift the community, our goal with tabling is to uplift and celebrate all the outstanding work that is already taking place on campus to make GT a better, safer space.”
Partners involved in the program included the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center, Housing and Residence Life, Dining Services, SMILE, CARE and the CRC.
“The Division of Student Engagement and Well-Being is multi-faceted, and therefore we must approach it as such and bring in as many partners and participants to provide such resources,” Wade said.
“As for now, we are sharing information on ways to connect through social media and marketing for upcoming events, as well as utilizing this time to inquire with students first-hand about what they enjoy and desire to see more of on campus.”
Additionally, GT Arts worked with Timothy Min, first-year MT graduate student, one of the creators of the interactive Empathy Between Two installation.
The installation was featured at two tabling events and controls a stream of music by monitoring how similar two people’s heartbeats are using sensors.
“The closer the heartbeats get to each other, the more harmonies you’ll hear. But, the farther they get, the harmonies begin to disappear,” Min said in a YouTube video describing the project. “… We want to see, can two strangers create more empathy just by doing the simple task of communicating heartbeats.”
Min’s goal of connection aligns closely with that of GT Arts.
“Now in the times of the pandemic, we seem to be more distant from each other,” Min said. “Yet, empathy goes beyond simple communication. It doesn’t require conversation, nor does it need any physical interaction. Truly, it comes down to just presence and acknowledgement.”
Besides learning more about campus partners, visitors at the tabling events had a chance to write their letters.
“There is something so simple, nostalgic, thoughtful and downright romantic about receiving a letter. It really is that simple — it’s a forgotten artform,” Matychak said.
“It’s also forced me, a new hire, to step out of my comfort zone and connect with the community. Our little project even caught the attention of our very own President Cabrera, who wrote a letter as part of our campaign just last week.”
Wade points out that letter writing is often overlooked due to the technology available to us. However, being able to spread encouragement is essential on a college campus.
“Not only are students facing the stress of their academic pressure, but we are also navigating the uncertainty of the current pandemic which has shifted our social interactions among one another,” Wade said.
“So, these letters not only act as a word of inspiration, but they are also a link to establishing more connections around our campus and support for one another through art.”
Although this week concludes the campaign, GT Arts has many upcoming events.
From April 4 to May 4, they will be hosting the Tech Arts Festival 2022, which will utilize the Arts Plaza throughout the month.
“We will continue to collaborate with student organizations as well as community partners to share and create music, dance, visual art and more at Georgia Tech,” Wade said.
Until then, and beyond, Matychak has advice for the Tech community to remain connected.
“We are all in this together,” Matychak said. “We all have our good days and bad days, our wins and our losses — that’s just how life is. I think this campaign provided an opportunity for the folks on campus to pause and reflect on everything we’ve been through, collectively and individually, over the last 2 plus years. That being said — a kind thought never hurts to speak (or write) aloud.”
To learn more about upcoming events and initiatives by GT Arts, visit arts.gatech.edu or follow them on Instagram at @GaTechArts.