Art as Expression: Non-Arts Students Exhibit Their Original Photographs at Daley College


They say a picture is worth a thousand words—and on Wednesday, December 1st, students at Daley College had the chance to put their words on display.

Participating in the “I Am the Voice: The Potential Within” exhibit at the college’s main campus on the Southwest Side of Chicago, seven Daley students showcased original photographs they had taken during the Fall semester. As part of the event, they also participated in a panel discussion about their photos and their experience as college students.

The purpose of the exhibit was clear: to allow students to express their voices through art and to specifically speak to their sense of belonging on campus. The unique part? None of the seven participants are photography students, nor are they earning their degrees in a related visual arts field.

From Seed to Success

Kenneth States, an advanced manufacturing student from East Garfield Park, was one of the exhibitors. His two photos featured plant seeds and flowers, which he used as a metaphor to describe the student experience.

Kenny States poses with his original photographs at the “I Am the Voice” event

“The seeds represent a potential student who has some idea of what they want to do. Then, being placed in an environment like Daley College, they become nurtured, and they become that bouquet of flowers,” he said.

While photography isn’t one of the subjects Kenny’s studying in his CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machining courses, participating in the exhibit was important to him, as it was an opportunity to share his voice and story as an adult student.

An Opportunity to Advance

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenny saw several industries being upended, including his own in the maintenance field. But instead of being deterred by the challenges of the pandemic, he viewed them as an opportunity to go back to school as an adult. He was tired of working “jobs” and was looking for an opportunity to advance both his education and his career in a hands-on field.

Kenny discusses his project with an event guest

Kenny was already familiar with Daley when he discovered the college’s Workforce Equity Initiative program, which would allow him to obtain a basic certificate in CNC Machining tuition-free. Now a participant in the program, he hopes to obtain a position as an apprentice in the industry once he’s earned his certificate.

A Variety of Voices

The other six students who participated in the “I Am the Voice” exhibit also shared their personal and career goals during the panel discussion, explaining why a sense of belonging is so critical to achieving their ambitions.

For Ciara M., who graduated from Englewood’s Lindblom Math and Science Academy in 2019, the recognition she’s received from her professors and advisor at Daley has enhanced her sense of belonging at the college. She says their support is helping her realize her goal of attending the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she was recently accepted as a transfer student.

Ciara poses with one of her original photographs

“It makes a difference to be recognized on a more personal basis,” Ciara said.

And while each of the student’s experiences and goals are unique, they all expressed finding a sense of belonging at Daley. As the panel was ending, one of the audience members remarked, “all of the voices here are so different… and that’s the best way to create a sense of belonging.”