A professor painted in words

By Alexia Davis

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Jaime Treadwell works in his studio on “Erasure.” Photo courtesy of Jaime Treadwell

 

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Erasure” by Jaime Treadwell. Photo courtesy of Jaime Treadwell

 

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Jaime Treadwell works with student Tyler Reavey, a graphic design major, at DCCC. Photo by Alexia Davis

 

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“Plane Shift” by Jaime Treadwell. Photo courtesy Jaime Treadwell

Jaime Treadwell, associate professor of art and design at DCCC, walks around the dimly lit classroom on Marple campus. The smell of chalk hangs in the air from the charcoals being used.

The atmosphere is calm and relaxed, and students are deep in concentration as they work to draw profiles of their peers. After five minutes, Treadwell tells the students to clear their drawing with what looks like tissue paper.

“It doesn’t matter how much you love it,” Treadwell tells his students. “Smear it away so you can do it again, and this time you’ll have four minutes.”

The students clear their work and are left with a simple black square. Under pressure, they risk making marks, and a face begins to emerge from the black space.

While Treadwell understands his students as a professor, he also understands them as an artist. His own collection, Shift Alt Delete, is now on exhibit at the Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia, and it will run through Dec. 20.

It took Treadwell a year and half to complete the exhibit.

Treadwell makes his way around the room, adjusting the lighting where necessary. He reminds students to pay attention to the shapes and shadows of their subject.

Just as Treadwell limits the time students have to complete their drawing, he also limits the tools they can use.

“You have to know your tools well,” Treadwell says as he shows his class how to cradle the eraser over their thumb.

As students work, Treadwell weaves around the easels in the room. He doesn’t stop, except to offer students advice and direction that will challenge them to look deeper into their drawing and understanding of the project.

From an early age, Treadwell knew that he wanted to be an artist. Growing up in Drexel Hill, PA, Treadwell loved drawing and found that he could copy anything. While other children were busy selling lemonade in their front yard, Treadwell was busy with his art stand.

“I sold one pastel drawing for $4,” Treadwell said in an interview with Wow magazine in March 2015.

Treadwell’s passion for art continued into high school. He says he thought of creating art as a “happy place to be” and a safe place where he could excel and build confidence.

The pressure for social conformity, however, left him feeling as though he had to hide his art. He saw artists and creative types ousted from the general social circle.

Treadwell remembers going into school early to slide his portfolio under the art classroom door so no one would see him with it. While playing ice hockey as a child and in college, Treadwell again found himself hiding his love for art.

“I just didn’t want anyone knowing,” Treadwell said. “It was my own passion, but I didn’t want to be looked at different.”

Treadwell believes his need to hide certain aspects of his life when he was younger may have influenced his work.

“Maybe [my art] is a way of showing a side of me without saying it [while] quietly exposing myself,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell began his undergraduate career as a sculpting major, but decided to shift his entire focus over to painting half way through graduate school.

It was a decision that came after Treadwell took a painting class to meet a required art elective. As the class progressed, Treadwell’s professor made the decision to pull him out of Painting I and put him into Painting II.

“That move was a big confidence booster and somewhat swayed me further into painting,” Treadwell said in an interview with Young Space, a curated contemporary art platform, in March 2017.

Treadwell completed his undergraduate degree at the State University of New York in 1999 and earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002.

After college, Treadwell took his art to the next level. Since then, his work has been exhibited across the United States and abroad.

Treadwell has been working at DCCC for more than a decade. In 2015, he was the recipient of the Gould Award for teaching excellence at the college.

Today, Treadwell manages the weight of what he describes as two full-time jobs. As a professor he aims to give his students the experience they need to be successful at the next level, and as an artist he strives to continuously push himself forward in his own work.

As Treadwell moves behind a student to view her drawing, she quickly tells him that she doesn’t like what she’s drawn.

“You’re not even at a point where you can start saying you don’t like it,” Treadwell says to her. “Keep drawing.”

That is exactly what Treadwell continues to do. While he does not currently have any new exhibits lined up, he continues to work and create in his studio.

Treadwell says his current exhibit at Pentimenti Gallery combines colors and graphics that are reminiscent of his childhood in the 1980s with new architectural and mechanical drawing methods.

“Similar to pressing the shift, alt or delete key, these paintings can quickly switch identities back and forth, as they suggest alternate realities or a fictional universe,” Treadwell said in in an interview with Juxtapose Magazine.

Treadwell says his teaching, and the research involved in teaching, has helped him to refine his own skills. If there’s one piece of advice he can give his students he says it’s to not hold back on an idea just because they think someone else has done it before.

“Don’t abort your mission; pursue it,” Treadwell said. “You might run parallel to someone else, but eventually you’re going to go your own path because you have to. You’re you.”

Contact Alexia Davis at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Pa. Rep. Jennifer O’Mara shares views on mental health

By Valerie Battaglia

The newly elected Pennsylvania Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D-165) shared her thoughts on Pennsylvania’s lack of mental health care treatment during her visit to the Marple campus on Nov. 21.

Mental health legislation is one of O’Mara’s top priorities as the representative for the 165th district, because of her personal connection to the issue, she said. Early in her adolescence, she lost her father, a firefighter, to a gun-suicide.

“We now know many first responders are dealing with PTSD,” O’Mara said.

In a research bulletin released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in May of this year, it was estimated that 30 percent of first responders develop behavioral conditions, including PTSD.

According to O’Mara, the first step in alleviating the stigma of seeking treatment for mental and behavioral health is opening the platform for discussion. She said that seeking mental health care should be as second nature as calling the doctor when you have a cold.

“What we find is, people strugglingespecially with substance abuse disorderisolate. Their families isolate.” O’Mara said. “It isn’t just the person struggling [with the condition], the entire family is affected.”

In 2014, the Biomedical Center published a study examining the relation between substance use and loneliness. Researchers found participants abusing substances to cope with loneliness, as well as increasing their levels of social isolation.

Not only does O’Mara find it essential for individuals and their loved ones to seek help, but she also stressed the importance of finding someone to talk to, especially those who have lost someone to suicide.

“A lot of people who lose someone to suicide start to wonder if there’s anything they could’ve done differently,” O’Mara said. “Carrying around that blame doesn’t allow you to grieve.”

According to a study done in 2017 at the University of Leipzig, prolonged grief without intervention correlates with an increased risk of depression and functional impairment.

While the study does acknowledge the need for further research in relieving the burden of grief in children and adolescents, O’Mara believes bringing the discussion into our public schools would benefit these victims.

“The way we have physical education tied in with gym, mental health should be a part of that curriculum,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara also discussed the importance of teaching children how to discuss their emotions, as well as warning signs to look for in their loved ones.

Increasing the school’s mental health resources goes hand-in-hand with the issue of school safety for O’Mara.

“They’re all saying we should arm our teachers or put rocks in classrooms,” O’Mara said. “How about we give schools more social workers and more counselors?”

In the American Counseling Association’s most recent analysis on the effectiveness of school counseling concluded that accessible mental health services were a vital part of student’s academic success.

“Many teachers know what signs to look for,” O’Mara noted, “but their classroom sizes are so large that they’re just trying to control the classroom and keep it managed. They’re not able to pay attention to the nuanced things happening in the classroom.”

O’Mara believes smaller classrooms would allow teachers to foster deeper and more meaningful connections with their students. Forming personal ties with their teachers may encourage students to speak with them on issues they’re facing outside of the classroom, according to O’Mara.

The Children Welfare League of America analyzed the connection between attachment and trauma. Their study found that children lacking secure attachments to caregivers face many challenges, including the risk of developing an attachment disorder. The lack of a secure attachment may also present itself as an inability to connect with their own children later in life.

“I’ve done a lot of research,” O’Mara said. “Children that have one adult that they can feel a safe connection to are more likely to overcome trauma, should they experience it. A teacher is often that line of connection that some children have.”

O’Mara concluded her thoughts by addressing the way we discuss suicide, not only as a state, but as individuals.

“Whenever I talk about my dad, or anyone, I often say they died by suicide, not that they committed suicide,” O’Mara said.

The word “commit,” as O’Mara explained, tends to carry a negative connotation. It’s often used when referring to criminal activity, such as “committing crimes.”

“Change the way you talk about it, “O’Mara recommended. “If you say that they died by suicide, you’re allowing yourself to be the person that is in mourning.”

O’Mara said that she wants people to not only think about how they discuss suicide, but also encourage people to speak more openly on the topic in general.

“When we isolate ourselves, we allow the stigma to grow,” O’Mara said. “We need to work on being out there and letting it be a part of our conversations.”

Contact Valerie Battaglia at communitarian@dccc.edu

Honduran immigrant feels safe inside the sanctuary movement

By Gabriela Escaleras

Suyapa Reyes, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, had to leave behind everything in her country because of the threat of gang violence. She came to the United States in 2014, but she never thought that life here would still be a struggle.

“In Honduras, I had my own business,” Reyes said. “I had a clothing store that I built by selling tamales or anything.”

When her life was at risk, without thinking twice, she took her two daughters, ages 8 and 2, to the United States in search of asylum.

“Maybe it was not in my plans, but I did it for the protection of my daughters despite [the fact that] I had to leave my two sons with my sister in Honduras,” she explained.

When she arrived in Texas in 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police arrested her and her two daughters. Suyapa’s father, who resided in Missouri, went to Texas and helped them get released from prison.

They all moved to Missouri, but after three months, she decided to move to Philadelphia while she continued with her immigration case.

“I looked for a lawyer here in Philadelphia, and he has been fighting for my case since then, but we lost in the last court,” Reyes said. “My lawyer explained to me that the judge that took my case was new, and that’s why we lost.”

Reyes used to work as a waitress and assistant cook in a Philadelphia restaurant called Garibaldi. She used this income to cover the expenses of her and her children.

Reyes had been going to her required migration meetings monthly and sometimes every two months, but in March, she received bad news about her case.

“At first they told me I would get a shackle on my foot and asked me many questions,” she recalled. “I felt that something was wrong and after that, they told me I will be deported. They said I should buy the [airline] tickets for my daughters and me, and leave my two sons, who were born here, with somebody or otherwise they would put them in foster care.”

Reyes was surprised they let her get out that day; then, on Aug. 28, she decided to take sanctuary at The First United Methodist Church of Germantown instead being deported and putting her life and the life of her children in danger.

Reyes is one of millions of undocumented immigrants who come to the United States fleeing gang violence or economic problems in their native countries. According to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution either by race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

However, under the Trump Administration, very few get asylum, others are deported, and others, like Suyapa, have no other option but choosing sanctuary.

The American Immigration Council, a nonprofit organization that seeks to shape a 21st Century vision of the American immigrant experience through research and policy analysis, litigation and communications, and international exchange, identifies two processes to apply for asylum.

Affirmative Asylum refers to a person who can apply through U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services because he is not going through removal proceedings.

Defensive Asylum refers to someone who can apply for asylum “as defense against removal from U.S.” because he is not undergoing removal proceedings.

The U.S. Department of Home Land Security reported that affirmative asylum applications by migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle region comprising Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, have risen between 2013 and 2016. More individuals sought asylum these three years than the previous 17 years combined.

According to their website, The New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia “builds community across faith, ethnicity, and class in their work to end injustices against immigrants regardless of immigration status, express radical welcome for all, and ensure that values of dignity, justice, and hospitality are lived out in practice and upheld in policy.”

The organization works to defend and protect the immigrants refuged in churches by doing campaigns, marches, or manifestations to unite society and create a single voice of justice toward the government, especially for those undocumented immigrants who feel they are alone.

Today, while living in the church, Reyes takes care of her four kids, ages 13, 7, 3, and 1; on Sundays, she helps to cook for a church organization that sells food as a fundraiser.

She said she likes cooking and she can prepare a variety of food such as tamales, rice and vegetables, fried chicken, beef and chicken soups.

“The people from this movement give me strength because they do a lot for us,” she said. “Sometimes I want to get out from here or run away, but my children, the ministers, and the movement’s members give me that strength to stay here, so I realize that I am not struggling by myself.”

Reyes added she sometimes wishes she could leave the church without fear of being deported, but she is unsure if she and her children would be safe in Honduras and does not want to leave her U.S. citizen children behind because she is both a “mother and father” to them.

Reyes added that another family from Jamaica is also taking sanctuary at the Church of Germantown, and they all feel secure that no one is going to separate them from their children.

“I’m here for the wellness of my children, and I don’t lose the hope the New Sanctuary Movement can do something for us to continue fighting for our cases and obtain asylum in this country,” Reyes said.

Contact Gabriela Escaleras at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Transgender teen recounts his struggle for acceptance

By Alex Philippsen

At age 11, Ren Williams learned the definition of the word “transgender.”

“My mom told me when I was a kid that I walked up to her one day and asked her… if I was going to grow up to be a boy,” Williams said.

Williams, who was assigned female at birth, constantly thought about that conversation over the next five years, until he finally realized his true gender identity.

But when Williams, now 16, came out to his friends and family as transgender, he faced a wave of discrimination.

It started with his family. Despite support from his mother, Williams’ father, who Williams claims is a homophobe, wouldn’t accept this reality.

“I tried to ask him about it,” Williams said, “and he just told me that he doesn’t love me enough to call me his son.”

The intolerance would extend beyond home. While waiting for the bus, Williams and his girlfriend, Alyssa, were attacked by two boys, who called Williams homophobic slurs.

The discrimination even reached Chichester High School, where Williams could not use either the men’s or women’s restroom. Instead, he had to use the restroom in the nurse’s office.

Williams said when he tried to use the restroom in the boys’ locker room, he would get persecuted by his peers.

After seeking support from faculty, Williams said they weren’t much help either.

“[They said] ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘it’s a normal reaction,’ when it’s not a normal reaction,” Williams said, “so I just stuck with the nurse’s bathroom instead.”

Williams is one of thousands of transgender people who face discrimination in education, their families, and society as a whole.

A study conducted by both the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, two nonprofit organizations that advocate for the LGBT community, reported that 78 percent of transgender students from grades K-12 have experienced harassment. Thirty-five percent have experienced physical assault.

The harassment led to 15 percent of transgender students having to leave school. Those who had been harassed by teachers were reported to be in worse health compared to those that didn’t.

In 2015, the U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) was the largest survey that examined how transgenders experienced life in the United States.

According to the survey, those that have received support from their families were less likely to have any negative experiences, suchas attempted suicide or homelessness.

Fifty-four percent of those with unsupportive families have attempted suicide, while 37 percent with supportive families have attempted suicide.

The same study reported that one in 10 respondents said that a family member was violent towards them because of their gender identity, while one in 12 were forced to move out.

The USTS also surveyed data from transgenders experiences in restrooms, where almost one-tenth of respondents said that they were denied access to a restroom in the past year. Twelve percent of respondents were verbally harassed while using a restroom.

In 2017, The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) conducted a study with transgenders’ experiences in restrooms and found that almost half (45.8 percent) of their respondents have had a negative experience in a restroom. About 56 percent felt that they weren’t safe in a restroom.

The NCBI indicates that sex discrimination in restrooms does violate the protections transgender students are given under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

According to Title IX: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, gives transgender students the right to be treated according to your gender identity. This includes the right to use restrooms that matches their gender identity and the right to not be bullied because of their gender identity.

Today, despite the challenges, Williams said he continues to look towards an optimistic future.

Recently, Williams moved out of his parents’ house and is currently living with his girlfriend, Alyssa.

“To this day, [Alyssa is] pretty supportive and it’s all fine,” Williams said.

Williams also said that most of his mother’s side of the family has been very supportive, especially his cousin, T.J. Williams said that after he came out to T.J., T.J. helped relieve some of his financial stress during his transition by distracting him with free guitar lessons.

Today, Williams said that he attends events that focus on transgender issues and tries to communicate with Pennsylvania politicians about the security and civil rights for transgenders, especially students. One of those politicians is Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf; however, Williams said that he still hasn’t gotten a response from Wolf.

Even with all the complications that he goes through today, Williams said that people who struggle with coming out about their gender identity should talk about it with someone.

“Look for the helpers,” said Williams, referring to an old quote from the show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” “There are always people helping.”

Williams also emphasized the importance of believing and trusting in one’s self, adding, “It’s a very hard struggle, but don’t stop. You’re going to get where you want to be one day.”

Contact Alex Philippsen at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu