CNM Art Students Exhibit in Prestigious 516 Arts Show

The students are part of the upcoming “Countermapping” exhibition that runs through January
October 14, 2021

In a recent Art Practices 1 class, instructor Lindsey Fromm asked her students to think more broadly about the definition of a monument. At the time, there was a lot of press coverage surrounding monuments that people found offensive, and Lindsey wanted her students to realize that there wasn’t one standard definition for what could constitute this kind of remembrance.

“We started to talk about who gets a monument and who doesn’t. I asked them to think about whether an everyday person could have a monument or we could create a monument to a more mundane moment,” Lindsey says. “It became a discussion about how a monument does not have to be made of steel or rock and doesn’t have to be physical or permanent. Monuments can be simple and ephemeral, and maybe all it takes to create a monument is a feeling or a memory.” 

Lindsey had her students go through this process because the class was prepping for an art show they’d been invited to participate in. That show came about when 516 Arts invited Lindsey and Ellen Babcock, an art foundations faculty member at UNM, to have their non-profit organization Friends of the Orphan Signs—which installs artwork on empty signs throughout the city— participate in an upcoming show called “Countermapping.” Both Lindsey and Ellen are instructors so they decided they wanted their students to create the work that would be included.  

Counter mapping is defined as “the practice of mapping against dominant power structures to reclaim stories and memories of place.” The entire show was about alternative ways to map, see, and remember the world around us, which is why Lindsey and Ellen focused on monuments. They wanted their students to define and create their own monuments across the city as a way to reexamine what places have meaning and why. 

“I told my students to think about a place that meant something to them, but I clarified that nothing monumental had to have happened there. That space could just be a place where a small but important moment happened, or be a place where they felt really good,” she says. 

Each student was eventually tasked with creating a multi-modal “Monumentary” that had three parts. They had to record audio directions to the site of their monument, but those directions could be broad and didn’t have to include information like street names. Second, they had to draw a map to their monument that once again focused on their personal journey instead of focusing on directions. And finally, the students were asked to create a photographic memory of their monument and were allowed to use old or new photos, collages, or other multimedia.

“It was definitely a complex project, but we broke it down into pieces, and everyone came out of the project incredibly successful,” Lindsey says. “All of the 60 or so students who participated were really willing to be vulnerable and share intimate spaces and illustrate these parts of their lives in rich ways. They all made seemingly mundane things very powerful and we were all very impressed.” 

The student work can be seen on a special Monumentaries website. There, you can listen to the students’ directions and see their maps and photos. There’s also an interactive map that shows where each student’s monumentary is located throughout the city. The projects are featured on a billboard (WHERE), and on four different city busses. Lindsey says they’re currently working on a large installation in the 516 Arts gallery space and have created a paper map to be distributed at the gallery as a way to further engage the audience.

In addition to creating moving and beautiful art, Lindsey says the project was important for students because it gave them real-world experience. Exhibiting in a well-known gallery like 516 Arts is something that should go on their resume, and the process has allowed them to see how a large show comes together. She hopes students found the project inspiring.

“We want to always find ways to keep students motivated to continue with their degrees,” she says. “Projects like this give them courage and motivation and confidence. They can say, ‘I have already accomplished something important and can see truly myself becoming part of the art world.’”

Learn more about CNM’s Fine Arts program.