Participants in the “Belonging at Oxy” project received an invitation by mail: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

This letterpress-printed Arthur Ashe quote was included in page-making kits sent out to more than 300 students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff who signed up to participate in “Belonging at Oxy.” The community book-making project, led by Book Arts Professor Jocelyn Pedersen and supported by Occidental’s Special Collections department, set out to bring together Oxy stories from the pandemic and create a lasting artifact for the Special Collections archive. 

Last fall, when Pedersen read the news that students would not be returning for in person learning in the spring, an idea struck her.

“I wanted to give participants an opportunity to play creatively and to reflect on their personal experiences of the pandemic. I hoped that by watching their individual contributions be literally bound together into a collective finished artifact, they might feel a sense of connection to each other, and a feeling of belonging within the entire Oxy Community.”

Participants received a 12” x 18” sheet of paper to make their page and attended a live Zoom workshop with Pedersen, who demonstrated a range of creative mark-making techniques using pen and ink, paints, drawings and household materials. More than 115 pages were returned by the end of April and the complete accordion fold book measures 40 yards long when entirely expanded. 

“Each page is a surprise,” says Pedersen. “It’s been so fun to find everything from incredible collages to beautiful watercolors, clever pop-ups and innovative mixed media drawings with carefully chosen quotes or moving essays. What has surprised and delighted me most is the level of effort displayed across the pages.”   Story continues below