“Home is not something we talk about very often here,” said Marta Misiulaityte ’14, one of the curators of the “Here Having Been There” exhibit that opens this Tuesday, April 8, in the basement of the Visual Arts Center.  

On a college campus, the idea of “home” is a loaded one, as students adapt to new surroundings and leave family behind. 

“We felt that people who come from similar low-socioeconomic backgrounds, like us, are underrepresented at Bowdoin, and their voices are not heard as much. We wanted to organize an exhibit that showcased places where people come from, in a very visual way,” said Misiulaityte.

The exhibit’s curators hope to display some of those origins and open up a conversation about the different places that students call home. They have received about 25 photos so far, and hope to reach about 40 in total, after the addition of photos from faculty and staff. All the photos will be displayed in black and white, but some will be different sizes.

“People tend to avoid conversations about class, because it’s such an uncomfortable topic. You get here and you’re supposed to be on a level playing field. Maybe people talk about their parents or siblings, but it’s hard to visualize,” said Misiulaityte.

Originally conceived as an exhibit exclusively focused on the homes of low-income students, “Here Having Been There” now attempts to represent the homes of all students and explore “how the definition of home differs,” according to Andrew Cushing ’12, the other curator of the exhibit.

The exhibit may have branched out from Misiulaityte and Cushing’s personal experiences to include a variety of different homes, but it still holds personal value for each curator. Misiulaityte will graduate this spring, and Cushing will leave Bowdoin for graduate school after two years of work as a sustainability outreach assistant.

“I’m leaving campus,” said Cushing. “There’s nothing for me to be ashamed of anymore. It’s taken me a long time to get to that point, but I feel comfortable sharing now, especially if it makes other students feel more comfortable about where they’re coming from.”

Cushing and his brother are currently tearing down their childhood home, a home of which he has no photos.

“That was kind of the impetus for me. How do you encapsulate that loss of childhood upbringing?” said Cushing. 

Misiulaityte expressed a similar sentiment. 

“Coming from a place of lower means, there’s a component of embarrassment, maybe even shame,” she said. “I thought, if my doing this will help some first years have more conversations about where they come from and the meaning of home, then I’m perfectly positioned to open up that conversation for them.”

The photographs in the exhibit are from a wide array of places, including Montana, Alaska, Lithuania and Nova Scotia.

“It’s fun to see the diversity, and sometimes, how similar some of the homes do look,” said Cushing.

Some students whose homes appear in the exhibit expressed a desire to explain their photo, while other students wanted their pictures to speak for themselves. One student explained that her home was her Bowdoin bedroom, because she had never had a permanent home outside of school. 

“This is our visual contribution. I want to open these conversations up to everyone, make it less of a taboo thing to talk about,” said Misiulaityte.

Misiulaityte doesn’t think of this project as her parting gift to Bowdoin, but she did say that the project is one of her most personal endeavors.

“Being on ResLife, I was always doing programs for first years and residents,” she said. “I was always doing assignments for professors, but this feels like the first project coming out of a personal sense of urgency to make this happen.”

Cushing added that the exhibit does not just showcase the homes of poorer students, though students from more affluent backgrounds have been timid about putting forth their photographs.

“Privilege is embarrassing too, for some students,” said Cushing.

In working on the exhibit, Cushing and Misiulaityte partnered with the club the Undiscussed, which is orchestrating discussions about risk and comfort zones this semester.