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Year of the Dragon window display at HMC an alumnus’ tribute to Sheridan’s multiculturalism

Newsroom authorby Vitusha OberoiMar 6, 2024

YimingA majestic dragon, surrounded by festive red lanterns, is flying proudly in a display window on the HMC Campus. The dragon carries with it a powerful message: move forward confidently while appreciating and connecting with the wisdom of the past.

The display, Year of the Dragon, which provides an opportunity for students to learn about the Lunar New Year, a festival typically celebrated in China and other Asian countries, was revealed at a ceremony on February 15. Created by a team of four first-year students, it captures the joy of the Lunar New Year with mobile systems to create organic movement in the window.

The display is also Yiming Liu’s (Visual Merchandising Arts ‘20) tribute to Sheridan’s diverse, multicultural spirit – something he says he valued immensely when he was trying to find his feet in Canada as an international student.

Found support he needed as an international student at Sheridan

The dragon symbolizes strength, courage, creativity, and the excitement of new beginnings, an emotion Yiming experienced when he first arrived at Sheridan in 2017 from a small city in China, a five-hour drive from Beijing.  Even though he worked in Beijing and had studied English at school, it was a language he had never had to use to connect with clients or at home.

“We all need to appreciate other people’s cultures and creating this awareness through art is more valuable to me than anything else.”

To overcome the language barrier, he had enrolled in the English Language Services (ESL) program at Sheridan.  Yiming completed ESL and moved on to join the program he had his heart set on: Visual Merchandising Arts. The program was highly competitive, but his professors ensured the students had access to the latest technologies and were supported in networking beyond the classroom. In addition, Yiming found himself in a multicultural environment where the traditions and ethnicities of all students were appreciated and celebrated. Encouraged by his professors, he participated in the creation of Visual Merchandising window displays on campus, based on different cultural themes.

Yiming says he did two displays for Lunar New Year during his time at Sheridan: the first time he just wanted to create something beautiful and add to his portfolio for when he applied for a job after graduation. But subsequently, he wanted the project to have more meaning by showcasing culture through art, especially following the COVID outbreak in 2020 and the ensuing backlash against the Asian population. It made him realize there was a need for a better cultural understanding among different communities; and that he could use the Visual Merchandising window displays at his alma mater to do that.

Window display competition to understand culture

“I wanted to do something more meaningful, which would help transform the way people view other cultures. Canada is a country of immigrants where people come from different cultures. And it is not enough for them to celebrate their cultures just within their own communities .”

Community

Now pursuing his master’s at Toronto Metropolitan University, Yiming decided to offer current VMA students the chance to create a display on campus that would allow them to explore cross-cultural opportunities through their work, and the Lunar New Year seemed like a good place to start.

Last year, he approached Louise Franklin, Sheridan’s Visual Merchandising Arts Coordinator and Professor, with the idea to hold a contest for teams of first-year students to submit their concepts for the window display.

The winning team worked under the guidance of alumna Meg Kong to bring their idea to life. Yiming says he was extremely pleased to find that the four students – Sara Castellanos, Jorge Rojas Cortes, Sonali Ghosalkar, and Jenny Hong – who won the window display competition this year came from different cultural backgrounds.

Donors, alumni came together to support the event

“The purpose is for students to learn about cultures other than their own,” he says, adding that he also wants the project to serve as another opportunity for students to practice their skills. “I want the students to appreciate this program. It taught me so many skills which have supported me in my work in different industries. I want the students to know they are in a very, very good program .”

“I want the students to appreciate this program (Visual Merchandising Arts). It taught me so many skills which have supported me in my work in different industries.”

Yiming also realized the window display was an opportunity to bring together like-minded donors and alumni - Nadya Jing Wen (Advanced Special Effects Makeup ’12), the Royal Bank of Canada’s Larry Gong, Haidan Wang, YST Auto Detailing, and Global Prospects Immigration Corporation –  who made it possible to purchase supplies and were able to offer the winning team cash prizes.  And now, with the Year of the Dragon already underway, he’s looking ahead to next year’s celebration, and hopes to hold the contest every year for 12 years to celebrate all the zodiac signs.

Franklin says the project was an excellent way to showcase how the Visual Merchandising Department can support diverse and culturally relevant content creation within the College and beyond. “This installation is significant because it provides a learning opportunity for students and promotes the Lunar New Year to our students. Visual merchandising is so much more than product marketing, and I want to thank Yiming and the donors who made this possible.”

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