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Friday, March 4th
3:30 PM

Under the Skin: Queer Trauma and the Medical Sphere

Gabriella Graceffo

UC North Ballroom

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM

For my third major artistic project focusing on abandoned human structures, Under the Skin is an interdisciplinary exploration of loss and trauma through silver gelatin photographs and a collection of original poems. I combine images of the decommissioned Air Force hospital in St. Marie, MT and free verse poems to explore how personal, intergenerational trauma lives within my queer body, and how my body is wrapped up in the medical sphere. This creative thesis compels the audience to consider the experiences we carry with us and how these ruptures and traumas can manifest in the body, particularly the queer body, and in language itself.

With financial assistance through the Ridge Scholarship and the Greta Wrolstad Travel Award, I traveled to St. Marie and photographed stirruped beds, overgrown nurseries, operating theaters, a morgue, and a basement crawlspace with military rations a family of coyotes has been stealing since the base’s abandonment in the 1970s. These images provide the tonal background and springboard for my poetry which focuses on abuse to women in the medical field, particularly my own experiences of not being believed, fear of childbirth, queer discrimination, dysmorphia, and the language used to discuss my body. I supplemented the autobiographical element with a literature review through the Ridge Collection to access medical terminology, legal cases of abuse to female and queer bodies, and stories of trauma survivors. This additional research puts my experience in conversation with the larger scope of this abuse and manipulation within the power dynamics of medicine.

The photographs offer access points for the viewer that are immediate and grounded, more relatable than specific narratives. The viewer can imagine themselves among the mold, and then dive into the more difficult, specific stories of trauma within the poetry. The interdisciplinary approach allows for marginalized narratives to be more accessible to the general public. I have struggled for years to convey my own trauma with language because of cultural contexts and shame surrounding discussions of abuse. This project creates a storytelling platform that presents realities in the medical sphere while also presenting these experiences with careful language and empathy.

I have no grand illusions that this project will create a wave of change and revolutionize the medical sphere and its practices, but this project does provide catharsis and speaks plainly of emotional, physical, and sexual trauma and how it manifests in the body without romanticizing or hiding behind academic jargon. Each member of the audience can have a personal revelation, a flicking of an inner switch as I discuss these subjects. Recognizing trauma and abuse plainly through direct discussion in poetry and tonal contexts in photography of the abandoned, vandalized hospital is important to my personal journey and to others’ self-perception. So often, we don’t realize something is wrong because it’s brushed aside or normalized; Under the Skin shows not just what is in my body, but what might be in someone else’s, creating a community with empathy and verbalizing loss and trauma while also critiquing the language we use to do so.

3:50 PM

Applying Counseling Theory in Arts Education

Jadd Davis, University of Montana, Missoula

UC North Ballroom

3:50 PM - 4:05 PM

It is a lucky researcher indeed who has the opportunity to test out strategies in a fully-operational laboratory! I graduated from UM’s School of Theatre and Dance in 2021 with an MFA in Theatre – and subsequently enrolled in the School of Education’s MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. I have had the opportunity to apply the privileges of my terminal degree (as an instructor) while studying a new – albeit related – field. Specifically, I accepted a one-year contract as a full-time lecturer at Gonzaga University in the Theatre and Dance department – while taking University of Montana courses remotely. Thus, I have paid particular attention to the nature and needs of artistic students through the lens of counseling theory.

In my work at Gonzaga, I considered the mental and emotional well-being of my students as they (predominately) entered into an on-campus environment for the first time after a year of synchronous and/or asynchronous remote learning. Bearing in mind that awkward transition and the ongoing pandemic, I chose to take a person-centered approach to education in the vein of counseling theorist Carl Rogers.

Of course, I didn’t attempt to practice actual counseling on my students, but I made special priority to “hold space” for students’ mental and emotional needs in a manner I’d never employed before in my other teaching experiences. That approach coupled with the Ignatian “presupposition of good intent” (a core tenet for the Jesuit Gonzaga), yielded tangible results in the form of student feedback, faculty observations and personal analysis and reflection.

I was the instructor of record for Theatre History, Acting 1 and a practicum production of a musical (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), which I also directed.

I am not yet prepared to draw broad conclusions for others’ pedagogical work. Nevertheless, In this presentation, I will share the feedback data and how it informs my current teaching philosophies – and what ramifications it may have for my subsequent experiences in education and counseling – with hope that as I gather more data I may be able to help inform more universally applicable pedagogical strategies for arts instruction.