"a series of small gestures" #3 at the Smart Museum of Art: "The Rituals We Celebrate as First Generation Kids" by Laura Chen

Jan 26, 2021

The Smart Museum of Art
proudly presents 

a series of small gestures

A University of Chicago student engagement program designed and managed by Aaron Wilder

"gesture" #3, January 26, 2021:

The Rituals We Celebrate as First Generation Kids
by Laura Chen, Undergraduate studying Creative Writing, Class of 2021


a series of small gestures, a student engagement program inspired by the Smart Museum of Art's exhibition Take Care and sponsored by the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry is now in its 3rd week. For each of the ten weeks of the University of Chicago's Winter Quarter 2021, we will be featuring a short video meditating on the theme of care by a University of Chicago student on both the Smart Museum’s Instagram and website.

Week three of a series of small gestures features a video by undergraduate Creative Writing major Laura Chen, The Rituals We Celebrate as First Generation Kids: “I have become appreciative of Buddhism, my grandparents’ religion, but not a religion I grew up with. I’ve gotten used to meditating for at least ten minutes every day and I’ve seen a massive improvement in my mental and emotional wellbeing. Another part of my culture is Chinese New Year with the ceremonial burning of fake money in honor of dead loved ones. My grandparents perform this ritual every year and, given the circumstances of 2020, I’ve learned to appreciate the care that goes into this tradition. It is one I hope to keep in my future family. My video touches on the ways that traditions passed down by immigrant families teach us how to live more meaningfully. I want to show how the very cultures we grow up in can be the most important sources of care in our lives, especially in sustaining feelings of gratitude and happiness.”

About a series of small gestures:

Inspired by the Smart Museum of Art’s exhibition Take Care, the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry invited University of Chicago students to submit proposals for short videos reflecting on the questions of how we care for ourselves and each other.

Through each of the ten weeks of Winter Quarter 2021, a student’s video reflecting on the theme of care will be “released” on the Smart Museum’s Instagram account. Over the course of the quarter, each of these ten “small gestures” of care will be accumulated on the Smart Museum of Art's website with information about the student and a short description of their project.

Student proposals were reviewed by a panel of jurors comprising the following Smart Museum staff: 

  • Nicole Bond, Lead Museum Educator who has created and led educational programs for a variety of audiences with many exhibitions at the Smart Museum, including Take Care;
  • Jennifer Carty, Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, who co-curated the exhibition Take Care;
  • Berit Ness, Assistant Curator of Academic Initiatives, who co-curated the exhibition Take Care;
  • Erik Peterson, Manager of Family Programs & Student Engagement, who works with University of Chicago students through many co-curricular programs including the Smart Museum’s Student Advisory Committee;
  • and Aaron Wilder, Academic Engagement Coordinator, who works with University of Chicago students through the various internship programs at the Smart Museum as well as through academic programs sponsored by the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, such as a series of small gestures.

In addition to the jurors above, this project is heavily indebted to critical contributions made by:

  • Aneesah Ettress, Curatorial & Academic Engagement Intern;
  • Issa Lampe, Deputy Director for Academic & Curatorial Affairs and Director of the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry;
  • C.J. Lind, Associate Director of Communications;
  • and Yue “Cherry” Ying, Academic Engagement Undergraduate Research Associate.

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