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UNC senior exhibits in SAMA's first solo show since 2017

Dacia Perez-Medina's artwork is displayed in Hanes Art Center, room 224. This is the Studio Art Majors' Association's first-ever solo show of student work.

Textured fabrics, collaged papers and embroidered stitches now line the walls of the SAMple Gallery on the second floor of Hanes Art Center. 

A collection of art pieces from UNC senior Dacia Perez-Medina's undergraduate career, "Tender Decay" opened on Nov. 10 and will be on display until Dec. 6.The exhibition is multimedia — utilizing tactile mediums like fabric, prints and thread.

“My own work draws a lot from a need for comfort," Perez-Medina said. "A lot of my work is just inspired by things that make me happy, and some of those things are conversations with my parents. Sometimes those things are K-pop. Sometimes those things are reading manga or listening to music. It’s just finding a way to heal through just enjoying these small, quiet moments.”

Many of the works in the exhibit were created for assignments in Perez-Medina’s UNC art classes. Her said that her art aims to highlight how comfort can be found in things that decay over time, along with shared vulnerability.

Perez-Medina is a member of the Studio Art Majors Association (SAMA), the organization that mentored her while arranging and promoting the exhibition, and also runs the SAMple Gallery. 

“SAMA is really about building a community of students, by students, for students and getting students’ artwork exposed to the greater campus body,” Isabel Schomburger, a junior and the curator-in-chief of SAMA, said. 

The exhibit is SAMA's first solo show since 2017. 

SAMA began in 2013 and exhibited regularly until 2017. The organization was brought back by senior Sarah Frisbie — who now serves as its co-curator — in the fall of 2021. 

Frisbie wanted to focus on advancing art students' connections in the Chapel Hill community, building relationships with UNC's Department of Art and Art History and teaching art business skills. 

“It’s just a creative outlet for us, but it’s also, I think, a very vital part of development as an artist to learn how to get your work out there and learn how to connect with people in such a fundamental way,” she said.

Students collaborate through numerous self-initiated processes throughout the creation of the exhibitions. Members of the organization physically design the gallery space, promote the artwork on social media and learn curatorial skills such as art label creation. 

SAMA’s previous exhibitions have featured works from multiple student artists and community members that follow a particular theme. However, Frisbie said that student art can sometimes look different than their peers' expectations. 

“When I got to UNC, I didn’t know what student art looked like at all,” she said.

In her first semesters, Frisbie did not have a place to connect with other student artists.

“It was really important to me personally to be able to find a community like that and to be able to build a community like that,” Frisbie said. 

Alyssa Brown, an exhibition attendee and UNC alumna, was impressed by the scope of mediums and experimentation in Perez-Medina’s exhibition.

“I feel like as a student you’re a lot more free to explore art. I feel like once you’re out in the world professionally there’s more pressure to really find a niche,” they said. 

Frisbie and Schomburger hope SAMA can continue to expand opportunities for art students to learn about exhibition, find a community and receive mentorship.

“These people are going to go out into the world, and they are going to make the things that you see — the signs, the craft fairs, the huge artworks that sell for bazillions of dollars that you see in Sotheby’s. All of that is happening here,” Frisbie said. 

Perez-Medina said that she was excited for the exhibit to be a "safe space" for all attendees. 

“I just make art because it makes me happy, and it makes me feel comforted," Perez-Medina said. "And it’s a good distraction from a lot of other stressful things in the world. I love it. I think it’s really powerful and I think people need to engage in it more or appreciate it more.”

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Emi Maerz

Emi Maerz is a 2023-24 assistant lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously covered UNC for the university desk. Emi is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and dramatic art.