1. Sabrina Ionescu, Self-Portrait. 
 

Art of the Athlete: All Stars

January 18, 2021 to June 14, 2021

For the past 8 years, the Art of the Athlete (AofA) program has been an education program for UO student-athletes as part of the museum’s broad outreach program which engages diverse student groups from across campus.  AofA workshops are designed for students to experiment with a variety of media including sculpture, photography, collage/mixed media, oils, watercolors and acrylics.  Writing prompts and drawing activities are designed by JSMA director of education, Lisa Abia-Smith and Senior Instructor in PPPM and center around themes of identity, representation, and resiliency. 

The goal of the workshops is to provide students with a contemplative time outside of practice, training, and classes where they can learn how art can be an outlet and vehicle for processing and slowing down.  In many cases, students use the opportunity to voice feelings of being misunderstood, advocate for change and racial justice, and highlight characteristics of their identities beyond a uniform. Most students begin their participation stating that they are not artists and not comfortable making art, yet by the end of the series of workshops, all of the students attest to the impact the program has had on their self-care and decompression. 

This year, we asked 6 former and current AofA participants to jury artwork made the past 8 years as part of the program.  A jury was comprised of Tyrell Crosby, offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions; Megan Conder, professional golfer and History of Art and Architecture graduate; Malik Lovette, former football player and UO graduate who went on to Northern Arizona to receive his master’s degree while completing his last year of NCAA eligibility; Tasa Leoso, women’s soccer player for Hayward State University, CA and UO transfer who serves as an AofA program manager; and Rex Manu, former UO football player and recent graduate who medically retired from football after a severe accident. Manu states that after his accident he was “lost and in a dark place and the AofA program helped to save me.” His self-portrait, After the Uniform, illustrates how student-athletes struggle when an injury or accident removes them from the team and they are left to find their new identities and forge a new path.

Two of the students whose work was selected have passed away and both died tragically as a result of being passengers in a vehicle where the driver was intoxicated. Fotu Leito and Tui Talia died almost one year apart from one another and were committed participants in the AofA program for three years.  They not only participated in the workshops, but also volunteered their time on Saturdays in the museum’s VSA accessible art classes for children with disabilities. 

When describing the AofA program, Steve Stolp, Executive Director, Services for Student-Athletes of Academic Support, said in 2018, “It is by far the most significant project that immersed our student-athletes into the university community. Most of the students divide their time between classes, tutor sessions, practices, and meals and this exhibition and program introduced them to the incredible resources at the art museum.”

Some of the 30 artists and AofA participants selected this year by the jury include: Evan Baylis, tight end for the Green Bay Packers; Deforest Buckner, defensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts; and Sabrina Ionescu, point guard for the New York Liberty.