Faculty Advisor

Elise Richman

Artist Statement

Narrative & Purpose in Tacoma Activists: A Visual Exploration Hailey Shoemaker As humans, our ultimate goal is to find purpose and meaning in life. I aimed to investigate the purpose, motivation and narrative of Tacoma activists and ask whether intrinsic or extrinsic aspects of one’s life aids in an individual finding purpose in activist work. More specifically, I hoped to determine if the motivation to advocate for social change is driven by identity or specific life experiences. Another central goal to this project was to better understand the breadth of activism in Tacoma and further connect the Puget Sound community to the greater Tacoma area. I would like to thank my advisor, Elise Richman, and the Chism Award for making this project possible and giving me the opportunity to engage with and learn from community activists. Sharing and understanding narrative connects people across experience and identity because it allows for the externalization of self as well as clarity about other’s lived reality. To complete this project, I interviewed eleven Tacoma activists in order to understand their background, what drew them to this work, pieces of their identity, struggles, goals, and current activism. I hoped to represent an array of social causes and did not limit myself to specific criteria within the activist community; however, it was important that I made space for the narratives of activists from traditionally marginalized backgrounds. The seven complete pieces attempt to capture as many identities and areas of work as possible. I would like to acknowledge that, despite this attempt, there is still a lack of diversity in these works. The voices of these activists are central to this project both in understanding who they are and in the final analysis that was done in order to identify common themes among them. I recognize the limitations in attempting to understand an individual’s story in a single sitting. Because of this limitation, I intentionally chose to let the activists’ own words speak to the common themes and the descriptions of their work. I hope this limits any projection or biases that I may have, which could lead me to misconstrue their narratives. Although I hoped to determine how we, as humans, find purpose, this research transformed into a focus on individual narrative instead of generalizing across experience. I strove to capture the essence of an individual’s holistic experience in my art; not just the aspect of fulfillment, but the struggles, grief and community that is present in these individuals. The pieces are all distinctly different, as no one’s narrative is the same. The mixed media—collage, acrylic, watercolor, and pen—that I used allowed me to push and explore these individual’s stories in a flexible and limitless way. The found items that were used for collage are from either the university or the Tacoma community. Using collage in this way was intentional, as I hoped to echo the connection between Puget Sound and the greater Tacoma area in my process. Like the materials I used to visualize these narratives, the narratives themselves are pieces of something greater. As a community, we exist among and within each other. Our own narratives can be fragmented— they come slowly and in pieces. Constructing the collages felt like assembling a puzzle that did not have all its parts. Similarly, these narratives weave together to make something larger than themselves, yet elements inevitably remain missing and unnamed. Ultimately, this is just a snapshot of the advocacy and passion in the Tacoma community, which I hope to make more transparent through my art.


image preview

Title of Work

Willie Stewart


Collage, Acrylic


18" x 18"

Date of Completion



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