Students and community members held a series of events this past weekend to commemorate the two year anniversary of the shooting that took the lives of six University of California, Santa Barbara students on May 23, 2014.
Last year, the lives of the six victims — George Chen, Katherine Cooper, Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, Weihan “David” Wang and Veronika Weiss — were celebrated through a trail of glowing orbs leading from Storke Lawn to the now permanent Pardall Tunnel light installation.
On Monday, Blunite — who organized last weekend’s “Lite the Nite” carnival — provided blue tea lights for students to place in decorated bags around the memorial garden. Shuji Nakamura, Nobel Prize-winning UCSB professor and creator of the blue LED, inspired the group’s blue tea lights.
Blunite placed six rolling canvases, each bearing the name of one of the victims, on the memorial garden pathway so that passersby could decorate or write notes. Third-year Eliot Oppenheimer and Kau Collins of Blunite slept outside in the garden on Sunday night to ensure that the exhibit would still be in one piece the next day.
“Artists often solve the problems that people don’t want to acknowledge or face,” said third-year art and theater double major Madeline Berger. “We were lucky to work so closely with the parks and recreation department who allowed us to do something like this.”
The canvases will be placed outside the Associated Students Pardall Center for the remainder of the week to be filled with messages. Blunite members plan to send the canvases, along with an art piece made from the decorated bags, to the loved ones of those lost.
Melissa Barthelemy, a public history graduate student, knelt down Monday afternoon to sign the canvas dedicated to Veronika Weiss. Since her spontaneous decision to collect and preserve the memorial items left in the wake of the tragedy in 2014, Barthelemy has kept in close contact with the families of the victims. She accompanied Chen’s father and the family of Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez as they attended the Blunite event.
Barthelemy, without any personal knowledge of the victims, lead the “We Remember Them” art exhibit to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the shooting last year.
“For the families in general, for them it’s been deeply moving for them to see how much people still care,” Barthelemy said. “One of the moms said it best when she said, ‘This makes me feel less alone in all this.’ They really find it therapeutic and healing to feel that sense of community.”
Earlier that day, approximately 75 dancers, dressed in all-white, performed an Eastern-inspired dance to the vocals of student a capella group Naked Voices and the music of several student musicians on Monday. The Buglisi Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Jacqulyn Buglisi choreographed the dance.
“As they [the dancers] form the peace labyrinth, they will bring up the mandala energy, symbolizing the eternity and continuity of life,” Buglisi said.
Associated Students President Jimmy Villarreal and Graduate Student Association President Aaron Jones led a moment of silence. Hundreds watched from the steps above.
LightWorks, a public arts event spanning for three days, dominated the weekend festivities with light-based art installations representing the work of 17 artists, many of whom are recognized nationally for their work with luminescents. UCSB Professor Kim Yasuda envisioned and led the project’s efforts.
Self-proclaimed “computer geek”-turned-artist John Lawrence created his version of the “Huggatree,” an interactive piece in which passersby can embrace a tree wired with pressure-sensing modules, and watch its roots glow in multiple LED colors.
“Art is really a journey, it doesn’t end where you thought it would end when you started,” said Lawrence, in a presentation given on Thursday, May 19, regarding the creative process behind the piece. “I’m pretty stoked with the way it came out.”
Other pieces included a projected waterfall and lake at People’s Park and a series of colorful images projected onto the student health building. Two UCSB student groups also showcased their work.
Blunite, with the guidance of second-year theater major Mitchell Jakubka, showcased “Luminescent Toran,” a string of lights at the entrance of the memorial garden — planted in memoriam of the victims in the summer of 2015 — for passersby to walk through.
Second-year actuarial science major Annika Tan raised approximately $6,000 from various campus organizations for her Art 122 Physical Computing class’ creation of the light bridge “Luminaria.” After a month of around the clock coding, assembling and waterproofing, Tan and her team lit up the wooden bridge in Anisq’Oyo’ Park. The group plans on making it a permanent installation, and want to exhibit it for June’s pride month with rainbow colors.
As the crowd at Storke Plaza waited in silence on Monday, Kum-Kum Bhavnani, professor of sociology and divisional chair of the Academic Senate, ascended the podium.
“We miss you. We grieve for you and all who knew you,” Bhavnani said. “Fiat lux: let there be light.”
6:03 p.m.: The headline has been updated
This story was originally published at 4:36 p.m.