Photo by Jake Paige ‘23

Most students live in a constant routine. They travel the same paths, through the same doors, up the same stairs, to the same classrooms. It’s exactly that routine that The Foundation, a new on-campus artist collective, aims to disrupt with their new project. Walking around campus, it’s hard to miss the large, brightly-colored posters spouting bold, direct messaging—and that’s the point.

The Foundation was born out of Associate Professor of Art Annie Strader and Artist-in-Residence Hosey Corona’s ART-225: Art and Social Practice class, where the students have been studying an emerging art form known as “participatory” or “socially engaged” art, where the purpose is to engage in active communication with the audience. 

For Prof. Strader, it was important that her students had personal stakes in the messaging they would convey with their art, so she let each student choose a unique topic.

“We realized that we were all thinking the same thing: mental health,” said Jonathan Gonzalez ’24. “So we decided to work together on a big project.”

And thus, The Foundation was born.

Inspired by the text-based artwork of artists like Chloë Bass, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, The Foundation chose to design signs touting positive mental health messages to the Wabash community. Currently scattered about campus are bold messages like: 

“It is in your best interest to be VULNERABLE”

“It is in your best interest to SLOW down”

“It is in your best interest to always HOPE”

“It is in your best interest to  CONTINUE on”

“It is in your best interest to BREATHE with intention”

and more.

Placed in conspicuous locations like stairwells, elevators and hallways without a history of displaying artwork, and coupled with the large font and neon colors, the artists hope to cause Wabash students to stop and reflect on what their best interest really is, instead of living each day monotonously. 

But this is not the first time new signage has popped up around campus. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had lasting impacts on mental health, but also on classrooms and hallways. still adorned with leftover directional arrows and symptom guideline posters. An additional focus of The Foundation’s project is to address the negative impacts on mental health due to the pandemic by changing the connotation of signs around campus from negative to positive. 

“To think, what was once there [in Hays Hall] was probably a sign saying ‘stand six feet apart’ or ‘wear a mask,’ and now there’s one telling you to breathe with intention,” said Prof. Strader. 

The “it is in your best interest” posters will be on display around campus through the end of March. Having designed them and hung them up, The Foundation turned their attention back to socially engaged art. 

“We realized we had been inserting our opinions, but we hadn’t asked other people what they thought was in their own best interests to do,” said Gonzalez. 

They are currently in the process of asking for advice from students regarding self-care practices, which they will integrate into the project going forward.

As part of the $4.5 million “Restoring Hope, Restoring Trust” grant, one goal of the class is to connect the Wabash community to the broader Crawfordsville community. The Foundation plans to accomplish this by using the April 1 De Nosotros Para Nosotros event at Pike Place to talk with members of the Crawfordsville community and get a broader perspective on mental health issues and help bridge the gap between campus and Crawfordsville.

“It’s all about bringing people together through art,” Prof. Strader said.