Emma Weisbaum’s paintings were featured at this year’s NextNOW Fest 2019 in a blacklight display entitled TURNED ON (Read Receipts). Photo courtesy of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

By Lauren Hamilton
For Mitzpeh

Although Emma Weisbaum originally thought pursuing art in college would be a waste of time, she is now one of less than 20 seniors hand-picked for this university’s honors studio art program.

“Why wouldn’t I take advantage of the fact that I could actually study art if I wanted to?” said Weisbaum. “That’s what would make me happy.”

Weisbaum said when she first came to college, she focused on becoming a better artist and sharing her artwork with others.

“Especially at UMD where a lot of people are just so into math and science…she never feels like she has to cater her interests to the culture around us,” said Jonah Anderson, a senior broadcast journalism and Arabic major, and a friend of Emma.

On September 13 and 14, Weisbaum displayed one of her art installations, titled TURNED ON (Read Receipts), at this university’s NextNOW Fest. Her array of paintings, illuminated by blacklight, provided a look into modern “hookup” culture and the impact of technology on intimacy.

The exhibit, Weisbaum said, showcased her personal experiences with the framework of how people meet and engage with one another online. To echo the “childish” interactions within online dating apps such as Tinder, Weisbaum decided to include refrigerator magnets as lettering.  

“I think that all of artwork, for me, is like a big diary,” Weisbaum said. “My entire life just influences what I create.”

Weisbaum credits the Jewish Zionist youth organization Habonim Dror with instilling a dedication to social justice values within her and teaching her about concepts like feminism from a young age.

Although she characterizes herself as a Jewish person who doesn’t support the State of Israel, Weisbaum said the organization greatly influenced her belief in tikkun olam, the Jewish practice of giving back to the community.  

“Emma is always trying to appreciate other people’s perspectives and trying to make space for other people,” said her brother and an alum of this university, Ethan Weisbaum. “[She’s] somebody who always wants to make room at the table.”

The support Weisbaum received at home made it easier for her to embrace her artistic abilities. She recalls being encouraged by members of her organizations to design T-shirts, eager to help her showcase her art.

“I felt so much support growing up [to pursue] artistry,” she said. “Having that kind of support and loving community to back you any route you go is going to help you create and help you express yourself.” 

After she graduates, Weisbaum is open to exploring different creative career paths. She said her Jewish upbringing will ultimately influence whatever her future brings.

“Being Jewish really informs everything. I love how my parents raised me. They raised me in a way that allowed me to be happy,” she said. “I have a lot of privilege being able to go down an art path. I feel so blessed.”


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