Shared Spaces

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

Who knew that love could spark among two chairs trapped between towering bookshelves, set to a violin’s enchanting melody? 

Thanks to the wonders of stop motion, Filip Birkner (MFA ’23) makes this possible. His short film Colorful Library, captioned “What Happens in the Library Stays in The Library,” spins ordinary objects into amorous lovers in one of Yale’s most intriguing spaces: the Stacks. 

Birkner’s use of this space is surprising: most associate the Stacks with seclusion and gloominess, not creativity and zest. However, Birkner proves that even Yale’s loneliest locations can breed artistic inspiration. His transformation of isolation into art can be mapped onto broader questions surrounding creativity at Yale: do artists need other artists to nurture their creativity? Are the spaces provided on campus sufficient to fuel the imagination of artists?

While there are recognized places to practice art on campus, they provide a different kind of support to artists than the spontaneity offered by a space like the Stacks. Alicia Gan (BK ’26) stresses that in art class, students build community by discussing theory and thinking about art together; drawing creative inspiration from each other is a peripheral concern. They taught her how to critically examine the decisions artists make, whether in terms of brushstrokes or shading techniques. While this degree of scrutiny gave her the language to speak about her own art, it relegated the production process to the background. Similarly, student exhibitions like the Yale Visual Arts Collective’s “Bildungsroman” offer a final version of their artistic vision without showcasing the intricate creative process that preceded the artwork. This makes them a good space for the public to enjoy, but a more difficult one to build inspiration from, as Issy Po (ES ’26) points out: “it is not very much where I draw my inspiration, but more where I go when I feel inspired”.

It is difficult, then, to find artistic communities at Yale that are centered around mutual inspiration. While some clubs are known to have more artistic souls than others (some say the Herald…), it seems like most artists are self-driven and content to work in isolation.  The Yale Visual Arts Collective appears to be one of the more centralized art spaces on campus, but their objective of fostering a collaborative artistic environment is challenging, especially due to the limited number of artists. The group is still in its early stages and the work it has showcased is compelling, but it does not seem like a necessity for all artists: “Not a lot of artists are demanding a centralized space. People like being adjacent to other people’s practices through art galleries and seeing their work—but not necessarily by putting a label on it,” Alicia recounts. 

Alicia’s and Issy’s inspiration are derived from introspection, with Yale and its people present as a backdrop. Organic meetings with other artists permit them, post-creation, to gather at the border between their ideas, finding common ground while learning from the other and  celebrating individual creativity. When creative minds come together, they can coexist for a moment, in a shared space where ideas are appreciated by others who understand them.

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