I remember sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor of the McIntosh Gallery. The students around me are silent as everyone's eyes are drawn to a spoken word artist in the centre of the space, who opens their well-worn journal to a poem and reads aloud — emptying their innermost thoughts. The speaker and students are strangers to me as a first-year student at the time but by the end of the night everyone feels closer.

You’ve just tasted the Symposium and Semicolon launch Party.

“Our last one went almost an hour over, and it just became a giant poetry slam,” says editor-in-chief of the Arts and Humanities Students' Council and their supported publications, Areesa Kanji. “You get up there, and you have the room’s support.”

Symposium features creative works such as poetry and visual arts, while Semicolon features academic essays from any Arts and Humanities course offered on campus. The Arts and Humanities Students' Council publishes a copy of  both publications each term, and the council celebrates their releases with a launch party held generally at McIntosh Gallery. 

As a writer herself, Kanji has been inspired by her work with the publications and sees them as important outlets for students, either as a way to do something creative outside one's program or as the start of a career in the arts.

“For me, I look at the publications, and I see them as an opportunity for students to share their talent and share their passion and as a way to get involved with the arts community,” she explains.

These campus publications demonstrate one way student creatives may grow their portfolios, but Symposium and Semicolon also provide jumping-off points for students with non-arts goals as well.

The marriage of art to success is something that has been growing evermore popular. According to a study by International Business Machines, 60 per cent of polled CEOs rated creativity as the most important leadership quality compared to attributes like integrity and global thinking.

Hannah Stanley, vice-president of the Arts and Humanities Students' Council, doesn’t plan on pursuing a career in the arts but feels her creative involvement will translate to her post-grad goals.

“I want to be a speech pathologist,” says Stanley. “I feel like I’ll have to be very compassionate and be full of empathy, and through reading people’s works you feel their emotions, which I think will come through in my potential future career.”

Although produced by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Symposium and Semicolon encourage students from all faculties to contribute. But the stigma that the publications are only for arts students leads Kanji and Stanley to believe there needs to be more outreach to advertise these creative opportunities.

“I think there are a lot of students in other faculties, especially science and engineering, that do need to have a bigger [creative] outlet,” Kanji says.

The ability these arts publications have to foster important dialogue on campus make them a useful tool for self expression as well. Some students use the arts as a way to manage stress and deal with personal struggles. So the opportunity for publication allows people to share their stories. 

“I think it very much encourages people to talk about things that generally may be hard to talk about,” Stanley says. “Through their creative works, they’ve found an outlet where they can express themselves … I think it’s really great to publish that so that other people know that they’re not alone.”

Submissions for this term's Symposium and Semicolon publications are open until Oct. 22. For more information on their upcoming launch party at the end of first term, as well as future submissions in second term, students are encouraged to visit the Arts and Humanities Student Council Facebook page.

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Culture Editor

Amy is a second year English and Visual Arts student in Western's faculty of Arts and Humanities. This is her first year as a culture editor at the Gazette. For comments or feedback, email her at amy.skodak@westerngazette.ca.

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