A shipment of plastic mats was placed in the Whitcomb Art Center (WAC) late last month to alleviate the effects of spending long hours standing on the building’s concrete floor.
Junior and Student Senate Health and Wellness Chair Tina Jeon got $302.99 approved from the Campus Life Enhancement fund to purchase five large and five small “anti-fatigue” mats, along with 36 smaller interlocking mats.
“I talked to some of my art friends because they spend a lot of time at WAC and sometimes they spend overnight because it is far from main campus area,” Jeon said. “Some people apparently bring their own yoga mat so that they can sit down or just chill, lay down. So I figured along the anti-fatigue mats, having interlocking rubber mats would be good.”
Jeon stumbled onto the idea for anti-fatigue mats in a drive folder left over from the previous Health and Wellness Chair. After getting the project approved by the Campus Life Committee then Student Senate, she reached out to Director of Facilities Services Scott Maust and Art Professor Mark Holmes who gave their approval.
Holmes said the concrete floors were not a major concern but art faculty agreed the mats were a good idea. Holmes recommended that Jeon order factory-grade mats from the website uline.com and the two placed the mats in WAC on Jan. 30 — three large mats near the sink areas, while the other smaller mats were numbered and placed on the second floor under a check-out sheet.
Holmes said he has worked on concrete floors his whole career and that it was ironic this issue was never brought up in the 45 years the art department was located on the concrete floors of CFA. He has not personally received complaints from students but he believes other faculty have. Without appropriate shoes, he said the floors can cause “foot problems” for certain people.
“There’s some places where they don’t work like ceramics where we have to be able to mop the floor continuously,” Holmes said. “In drawing, students stand for long periods of time but it’ll be interesting to see how much use they get, whether students are willing or attentive enough to grab one and use it and then put it back or do they end up, just — you know. So that’s an open question.”
So far, the five smaller and 36 interlocking mats have primarily been taken up by students of Open Studio, a 2.5 credit art class in which art students are supposed to spend 35 to 40 hours a week working in personal studio spaces on WAC’s second floor.
Open Studio student and senior Louise Rossiter was first made aware of the mats when Holmes mentioned them during a class critique. Rossiter said she spends 50 to 70 percent of her time in WAC standing and has been using four of the interlocking mats for a week now.
“The concrete floor is ridiculously hard and I find that it hurts my heels a lot because I stand back from my paintings a lot to look at them and see how they look from afar. And so these have been pretty nice to do that,” Rossiter said.
Rossiter said the mats went quickly and she got the last few left. When Holmes inquired if the drawing studio was using any of the anti-fatigue mats, Art Professor Andrea Ferrigno said, “I haven’t even seen any.”
Holmes supported that, “’We can’t run a system of checking them out, nobody has the time for an official checkout system.”
Open Studio student and senior Luba Liubvina was skeptical that WAC students would remain faithful to a check-out system. Liubina argued the long hours art classes demand mean WAC students never completely finish their work, so students would never really be finished using the mats.
“It’s cool that (Student Senate is) doing something but also I think the way they do it is weird for the art students because it would work in the gym like that but art kids don’t do things the same way,” Liubvina said. “We just take things and then use them forever and kind of return them later you know.”
Liubvina has not used the interlocking mats, but said she is grateful for the ones placed by sink areas. Like many other studio students, Liubvina has already brought her own cushion or yoga mat to her studio space. But she supported providing more mats specifically for the three-hour class critiques and for students not in Open Studio.
“It would be nice to have them in different spaces because if you just put them upstairs then obviously people from the studio are going to just take them for their use,” Liubvina said.
Open Studio student and senior Hyaa Almakky took several of the mats but did not realize what their purpose was or that they were provided by Student Senate.
“We use whatever we can, we are broke art students. We’re going to be starving artists anyway, whatever you give us we will use. But yeah, I will use this. Thank you for these,” Almakky said.
Though Jeon is involved with other ongoing projects like the Condom Hotline, she said obtaining the anti-fatigue mats was the first project she has completed as Health and Wellness chair. Jeon said as a senator in the past she felt “lethargic” about pushing forward projects, pushing through unnecessary bureaucratic steps. But once she committed to the project and started bugging people, she felt it progressed quickly and easily.
“So I feel like if you need something for campus life and you have a great idea, reach out to senators. Don’t be like, ‘Oh we don’t have something, we are not doing this.’ Don’t rant about it but reach out to someone and initiate something, then it will not be as difficult as you think,” Jeon said.