Sordoni Art Gallery holds first ‘Art in Context’ lunchtime lecture


The Beacon/Megan Stanley

The lecture, held by Dr. Ellen Newell, was held in the Sordoni Art Gallery.

Cabrini Rudnicki, News Editor

On Feb. 6, the Sordoni Art Gallery hosted the first of its “Art in Context” lunchtime lecture series.

The gallery featured Dr. Ellen Newell of the psychology department at Wilkes, lecturing on the topic ‘Sparking Change? A Discussion of the Effectiveness and the Consequences of the #MeToo Campaign.’

The lecture occured at noon in the gallery. The audience was encouraged to bring food and refreshments.

Newell’s lecture focused on her and Dr. Jennifer Thomas’ psychological research.

“The big question since I started my research has been sexism: how do we deal with it? We have two choices. One, we can ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist, or two, we can face it head on,” Newell explained.

Dr. Newell performed an experiment which gave subjects a test on their belief in the meritocracy, or the American Dream, then made them give an impromptu speech in front of a fake group of judges. One group of subjects was given a judge with a sexist belief system, the other was given a judge with a neutral one. The subjects were tested for biological signs of stress, as well as gendered speech.

While the research found a variety of interesting statistics, the main focus was how a high belief in the meritocracy created less stress in women when facing the sexist judge.

This lead to a conclusive chart which pointed out that feminism often led to activism, but also led to high levels of stress.

“I hypothesize that there is high stress because there’s a charge here,” she explained. “It’s your job to take care of these problems. It opens you up to further discrimination and sexism with people who may disagree with you.”

When high belief in meritocracy was added to the chart, there was considerably less stress.

However, as Dr. Mia Briceño later pointed out, the belief in the American dream and feminism often do not coincide together.

“You have to believe in the meritocracy to feel less stress in the model,” asked Dr. Briceño. “But isn’t that denial?”

Due to this, Dr. Newell also found that having a belief of your own sense of control, rather than the belief in the world’s sense of justice, will also reduce stress created through activism.

Dr. Newell and Dr. Thomas plan to expand the research to beyond the Wilkes campus and do a survey of NEPA, and then eventually a nationwide study.

Students and faculty were amazed by the findings of the research. Junior psychology student Kelly Barnefiher gave her opinion of the lecture.

“I wish I had a copy of that powerpoint to show everyone I met,” said Barnefiher.

The series was created to provide an opportunity to discuss important social and political issues related to the current art exhibit, ‘The Bones of Us Hunger for Nothing’ by Angela Fraleigh, which opened in January.

Heather Sincavage, the gallery director, spoke of the lecture series.

“The lecture series in itself were inspired by a lot of [Angela Fraleigh’s] content and a lot of what she looks at for inspiration, and the consideration that she made when she created her artwork.”

“If you look around here,” said Sincavage, gesturing around the gallery, “Some of them look a bit historical, but she’s speaking a lot about contemporary issues. One of the pieces is inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.”

Two more lectures are planned for this semester. On Feb. 5, Dr. Laurie Sterling of King’s College will be holding a lecture titled, ‘My Beautiful Fur: Women, Beasts and The Fairy Tale.’ The last lecture will be held Feb. 27 on ‘(Re)Reading Violence: Intimate Aggressions in Literature’ by Dr. Mischelle Anthony and Dr. Chad Stanley. All lectures are at noon in the art gallery, and are free to the public.