Color Connection Project Creates a “Cultural Bridge”

Heather Jones presenting in front of group of seated people at gallery

On her Fulbright to Mexico in Spring 2024, SUNY Genesee Community College (GCC) fine arts professor Heather Jones created a project called “Color Connection,” to explore her conviction that “color is the cultural bridge that connects us all.”

Jones’s semester-long collaboration with Professor Jose Luis Gonzalez-Cabrero and the Industrial Design Department at Universidad Autonoma de San Luis Potosi (UASLP) culminated in simultaneous exhibits in April, 2024, held at Genesee’s Roz Steiner Gallery in Batavia, New York, and at her host university in Mexico. The exhibits showcased the work of more than 200 photographs created by students at both institutions, who shared their perspective on color across countries.

During her Fulbright, Jones taught classes on color theory and photography to her students in Mexico, while teaching the same curriculum online with her U.S. students. The students photographed a specific color in their daily lives each week, and uploaded the images for class discussion. Students were invited to submit some of their photographs for selection by a jury to be displayed at the exhibits. Jones says that both participants and viewers could appreciate the similarities between these two cultures and also  “the best of cultural diversity” through visual imagery.

Jones gave a presentation about the Color Connections project at the Genesee Community College gallery on April 4, and the exhibit ran from March 25 to April 11. She showed photos and videos of what life is like in central Mexico, and explained that photography builds a sense of connection and empathy by placing the viewer into the photographer’s point of view. Visitors to the exhibit in New York heard testimonies from the students in Mexico about their experience with the project.  

Jones noted that many community college students do not have the ability to travel to other countries, and said the Color Connection project gave her U.S.  students “the opportunity to connect with students in Mexico without all the expense of traveling.”

Student participants emphasized that the collaborative project helped them gain an understanding of one another’s culture and daily lives by highlighting their connections to color in their communities. Melisa Rangel commented that “colors are like a wordless language that everyone can understand, no matter where we are from.” 

Pato Escobedo said “color helped us build a bridge between two cities” and the photos the U.S. students shared showed him “a whole new beautiful world.” He reflected that “the idea of someone in New York experiencing that same thing, but about my city, is so amazing.  I just hope that someday we get to meet each other and experience those worlds, not through pictures, but with our own eyes.”

Jones, who has led many study abroad trips as a professor at GCC since 2008, explains that her goal for the show is to inspire compassion and unity in a time when differences try to divide us. She notes that celebrating the artwork with the international community, local friends, and colleagues has been a rewarding experience. “Hopefully, on a deeper level, we can make connections instead of creating barriers between these two cultures,” said Jones.

View gallery of student artwork and video testimonials @GCCcolorconnection on Facebook or Instagram.

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