News

Deinum Prize winner creates art to heal gun violence
Author: Suzanne E.W. Gray, College of the Arts
Posted: May 31, 2019

 

Chloe Friedlein, winner of the 2019 Andries Deinum Prize

Chloe Friedlein '19, winner of the 2019 Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs

 

A young woman who had survived a mass shooting told her mother that she’s now terrified of the sound of fireworks. 

Her mother’s response? “we all have problems.” 

Chloe Friedlein ’19 wants to change conversations like these—and in so doing, transform the debate around gun violence in America. 

Friedlein, who graduates in June with a BFA in Art Practice, won the 2019 Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs, the largest cash prize in the College of the Arts. 

The $10,000 award will support her project “Dear America…” an art installation and book about survivors of gun violence.  

Over the next year, Friedlein will meet with gun violence survivors around the country, creating photo portraits and etchings that capture facets of their personalities. She’ll then pair the images with the subjects’ own words about their experiences. 

Her goal is to build empathy. Gun violence creates lasting emotional damage to both individuals and communities, Friedlein says. By giving survivors a platform to share their stories with others, she hopes that “Dear America…” will encourage healing and create the personal connections that inspire people to take action. 

Surviving and healing

Friedlein has a deep understanding of art’s ability to foster healing, because she’s experienced it herself.

She was studying theater at Umpqua Community College in 2015, when a fellow student murdered nine people and injured eight more, in Oregon’s deadliest mass shooting. 

The experience affected Friedlein deeply. The theater program had been her home; now it seemed profoundly unsafe. She transferred to PSU and turned her attention to visual art, creating abstract, emotionally charged drawings and prints that reflected the storm of emotions that haunted her after the shooting. 

Over time Friedlein has come to address gun violence more explicitly in her artwork. She participates in the Everytown Fellows program for survivors and speaks publicly in support of common sense gun laws at the state and national level. 

“Now that I’ve found healing I can start giving back to others,” she says. “I want to use my work as a means of prompting social change.” 

The Deinum Prize

Winning the Deinum Prize will help her do just that. The Andries Deinum Prize for Visionaries and Provocateurs is awardedto a College of the Arts student who is committed to expanding public dialogue via creative artistic expression, original research or an innovative project highlighting the value of art in the 21st century. 

The prize is named for the late film educator and PSU professor Andries Deinum (1918-1995), who transformed Portland’s cultural and intellectual landscape through his innovative use of film in education. 

“Andries Deinum used art to promote community conversations that could transform society,” says Leroy Bynum, Jr., dean of the College of the Arts. “The prize jury really responded to Chloe’s conviction that personal stories are essential to social change. It resonates deeply with Professor Deinum’s humanist values.” 

The PSU community will get to experience “Dear America …” during Portland State of Mind in fall 2020. 

A world without fear

To create the text accompanying her images, Friedlein will ask survivors to think of someone who has misunderstood the trauma of a shooting—like the mother who scoffed at her daughter’s fear of fireworks—and respond to a writing prompt: what do you need that person to understand about your experience? 

The answers will be heartfelt, personal and eye-opening. And in the gallery exhibit and book, they’ll be addressed not to specific relatives or friends but rather to America itself. 

It’s a way of drawing universal themes out of personal experience.  “We are all affected by gun violence,” Friedlein explains, “and it is something that, together, we can remedy.”

She says, “I want to live in a world where my younger siblings are not afraid to go to school; where black mothers do not have to wake up each day wondering if their sons will come home that day; and where everyone is able to worship in whatever way they choose, without the fear of violence.”

And getting there starts with a story.

 

To make a gift or discuss options for supporting PSU arts faculty and programs, contact:
Jaymee Jacoby, Senior Director of Development, College of the Arts
503-725-3396 | jacobyj@psuf.org
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