‘Mean Girls’ multimedia art exhibit examines female bullying

A traveling exhibition that examines the dynamics of bullying by girls makes a month-long stop in October at the Penn State New Kensington Art gallery.

“Mean Girls” is a community engagement project in which national artists address the impact of bullying on young women. Bullying starts at an early age on the playground, moves to high school and on to college, and continues into the work place. Open discussions to create dialogue are a part of the exhibit. The multimedia display, which features paintings, drawings and sculptures by 10 artists, opens Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 31.

In addition to the exhibit, the artists will talk about their works and the effects of bullying at noon Wednesday, Oct. 9, in the campus’ Forum Theatre. Jill Larson, curator of the exhibit and a participating artist, facilitates the discussion. Campus students, faculty and staff are asked to wear orange as a show of support for the anti-bullying campaign.

“The 'Mean Girls' exhibit is the kick off to a larger discussion with our students on how we as individuals in today’s society address conflict with another individual, between groups, as a leader, an employee or whatever role that we have where a conflict may arise,” said Theresa Bonk, director of student affairs at the campus." We believe that developing these critical communications skills will empower students to resolve interpersonal conflict throughout their lives and lead them to achieve success in their chosen career.”

The campus has designated October as “Bullying Awareness Month” and will address issues regarding bullying and conflict resolution and examine the issues from a fresh perspective. Bullying between females takes many forms -- physical violence, verbal abuse and cyber-bullying. There are cellphone apps that were created for the specific purpose of bullying. Local school districts are encouraged to participate in the campus discussions.

The artists' presentation will be augmented by a series of activities, including a talk, “Mediation and Victim/Offender Dialog Programs,” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, in the Art Gallery. The guest speakers are campus faculty members Jennifer Wood, associate professor of communications arts and sciences, and LaVarr McBride, instructor in administration of justice. Additional events are in the planning stages.

“We are dedicated to finding ways to increase our student’s conflict resolution skills,” Bonk said. “We are inviting school groups to the special presentation, and would be open to facilitating interpersonal communication exercises with the groups."

Larson, who uses her art to create social change, is the driving force behind the “Mean Girls’ exhibit, which debuted in February at the SPACE gallery in Pittsburgh. She selected the 10 artists, who work in different mediums, to spread the message of anti-bullying and to create dialogue about the subject.

One of the chosen artists is Allison Stehlik, who holds a master of fine arts degree from Penn State. Stehlik, assistant professor of art at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, teaches sculpture, design and drawing, and researches the parallels between historical folk tales and our contemporary experience. Her sculptural works in "Mean Girls" reflect the complex psychological relationship between villain and victim. Her resin sculptures of hybrid animals and young women wear intense expression -- some for the need to dominate and some are desperate for acceptance.

The other artists are Traci Molloy, Lilly Cannon, Barbara Schreiber, Marian Barber, Andrea Evans, Sonja Sweterlitsch, Randie Snow, Vanessa German and Jenn Gooch.

The exhibit and presentation are free to the public. The gallery is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. weekends.

Large groups interested in attending the exhibit or presentation, should contact Theresa Bonk at 724-334-6062 or tab19@psu.edu.

For more about “Mean Girls,” visit http://meangirlsartexhibit.com/.

For a list of upcoming art gallery exhibits, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/Academics/43828.htm.

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Last Updated September 19, 2013