As another school year brings in a fresh crop of freshmen, campus is bustling with the sounds of doors slamming and people hauling boxes up and down stairs. For many, decorating a room is a chance not only to bring a taste of home to Dartmouth but also to showcase their artistic side or admiration for the arts.
For these students, bringing artwork from home served as a way to stay in touch with their roots in an unfamiliar setting.
In her first year, Ashley Kekona ’18 brought crafts such as a shell garland and mini puzzles made with her friends and family.
“I used the mementos to encourage myself to work hard for those who have supported me,” Ashley Kekona said. “They also made me feel more comfortable and helped ease my transition in a new place.”
Samantha Maltais ’18 brought her guitar and a record player to decorate her room, writing music in her free time to relieve stress. Maltais also brought a few old drawings that she characterized as a “personal installation.” Some of those drawings inspire her new work, connecting her past with the present.
For the majority of students, posters are an easy way to cover wall space while displaying their interests.
In the beginning of her freshman year, Kalei Akau ’18 bought prints of Andy Warhol and Matisse paintings as well as a movie poster for the film “Sabrina” (1954). Along with photos of her family and friends, these prints have moved with her in her travels from room to room.
After taking “Drawing I” this past summer, Andie Conching ’18 decided to keep some portraits and still-life sketches she completed for the course.
“Even though they weren’t perfect, these are pieces that I made, so I decided to keep them,” she said.
These drawings join photos Conching brought from home as well as a book her sister made for her before she left for college.
Room décor, she said, can be important, especially if it reminds someone to stay grounded in her values.
Akau echoed Conching’s statements, citing how necessary it is for students to take ownership of their rooms as “a place on campus that’s [their] home.”
“I feed off the spaces that I’m in,” Akau said. “For me, it’s special to decorate my room so that it’s a space that reminds me of home.”
While it may seem odd to some to ascribe such meaning to inanimate objects, room décor functions as a time capsule as students move term to term from their freshman dorms into off-campus or affinity houses. Kekona noted the significance crafts and posters hold for many.
“Memories associated with the objects can also help serve as a constant in an ever-changing environment that comes with college,” Kekona said.
This fall will be an especially memorable term for Kekona as her sister Leeya Kekona ’20 will join her at Dartmouth. After hearing about Ashley Kekona’s experiences, Leeya Kekona brought pieces to decorate her room that connect her to memories and her loved ones.
These pieces include paintings purchased in Italy and Belgium as well as self-made work, including a piece she made of dried flowers that her grandmother sent her from Japan.
“It feels important to have something from home in case I get homesick or lose my motivation,” Leeya Kekona said.
Oftentimes, students who create room décor may not initially intend to do so. A simple doodle during a study break may evolve into a fully-formed sketch that is worthy of being pinned to a wall instead of crumpled and thrown into the trash. On the other hand, a student may save posters from performances they attended at the Hopkins Center and end up decorating their room with them as a way to relive the experience of listening to an ensemble play.
Taking the time to enjoy the arts at Dartmouth is one way to accumulate room décor over four years and is a way to personalize a room with past memories and future hopes.
“It’s the very act of creating that is necessary for some to survive the stress and pressure to do well,” Maltais said. “I think that being able to take a break and do something you’re passionate about is how a lot of people make it through their more tedious terms.”
Some embrace the arts by purchasing posters and prints while others do so by posting tickets from films and performances or displaying artwork they made. Regardless of whether one is a freshman figuring out how to hold onto the glory days of high school while making a mark in college or a graduating senior who’s already reminiscing about the past three years, room décor conveys an innate truth about time — it’s precious.