The new and improved Sensory Room in the Student Accessibility Support Center (SASC) features work from art students in Professor Nobuho Nagasawa’s ARS 205 (Ideas and Form Section L04) and ARS 403 (Socially Engaged Art) classes.
The Sensory Room is located in the Stony Brook Union, Suite 107, and it is designed to help students who need to receive or exclude sensory input and help them relax and soothe their senses. Inspired by the Sensory Room, Nagasawa’s students created art installations that expressed their individual take on the senses and how their art may best soothe the participants.
On December 6, SASC hosted a showcase featuring the creative student artwork at the Student Union’s COLA Lounge before the installations found a permanent home in the SASC Sensory Room.
“SASC contacted the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Art regarding having students create a sensory art experience for students utilizing the Sensory Room, and we had several meetings with Professor Nagasawa and the students to discuss the collaboration,” described SASC Director Wendi Mathews. With the guidance of Nagasawa and the SASC staff, each student was asked to think of how best to engage the viewers’ senses with their art using different media to create olfactory, tactile, kinetic, auditory and visual forms of expression.
Sensory art therapy is a type of treatment that uses all kinds of art to explore emotions, resolve psychological conflicts, reduce anxiety, as well as decrease physical pain. “We were very excited about the Sensory Art Showcase. The goal was to create an artwork that would encourage students to use a variety forms of art to assist in their coping as well as highlight these talented artists and be able to use their art for years to come in the Student Accessibility Support Center’s Sensory Room,” said Mathews.
Erica Lynch ’22 created a very interactive piece — named Experience Nature, 2021 — that highlighted touch, the auditory senses and smell. Lynch foraged for plants in the Avalon Nature Preserve and took imprints of leaves, and she then used acrylic paint and a jelly press to get the images on paper and placed the found foliage into the work. She also made two recordings of water mixed with music on QR codes that leaves the participant with a sense of calm as it plays on their ears. When asked about her work Lynch said, “In essence, I hope this encapsulates the senses and experience of nature. I hope it inspires people to use nature as a coping skill in their tool kit.”
Hongrui Zhang ’22 created one of the many visually exciting installations at the showcase. Using tape, mylar paper and glue he created a handmade kaleidoscope, titled VR Kaleidoscope 202. The overall design was inspired by virtual reality, where mental escape from a busy life is helpful, especially when the participant places themself inside the vibrant colors of the kaleidoscope. “[I think] Mental escape is a key point of the Sensory Room,” he said in his piece, and to his credit, the participants of the showcase were transported as they whipped their heads this way and that, while holding onto the headpiece of the kaleidoscope.
A piece that truly encompassed the feel of the Sensory Room was Blue Light, 2021 by Sarah Conway ’24. A large cardboard box with a heavy deep blue blanket laid over it, while very noticeable in size, is a piece that is so deceptively ordinary that when the participant finally comes face to face with the piece, those who peek under the blanket are met with gentle serenity as the white light and noise of the day is swallowed up and all that is left is a deep glowing blue light. As the viewer gazes into the light, all that is inside is made from cardboard and hot glue. In the center is a very standard residence hall room bed, a desk and chair off to the side. “I would like to leave the interpretation of the scene up to the viewer because I want to see how the space conveys itself to each individual,” said Conway.
Students can visit and stimulate their senses in the Sensory Room. Take a look — or a feel or even a smell — at the interactive and calming pieces from these student artists.