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‘Rooted’: The Harvard College Women’s Center’s Masterpiece

Women's Center intern Jana Amin '25 speaks to attendees at the unveiling of the Women's Week 2024 sculpture, while intern Nabila Chowdhury '25 stands to the side with Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Belonging Alta T. Mauro.
Women's Center intern Jana Amin '25 speaks to attendees at the unveiling of the Women's Week 2024 sculpture, while intern Nabila Chowdhury '25 stands to the side with Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Belonging Alta T. Mauro. By Lucy H. Vuong
By Madelyn E. Mckenzie, Contributing Writer

A cold Monday afternoon, a 3-D printed work of art, and the Science Center Plaza: a wonderful way to kick off Women’s Week. The 18th annual Women’s Week, organized by the Harvard College Women’s Center, commenced on March 25, filled with events dedicated to amplifying gender-expansive voices and presence on Harvard’s campus. This year’s theme was “Rooted/Roots,” after which a sculpture was unveiled in conjunction with the week’s title.

The Harvard College Women’s Center is dedicated to creating a welcoming community that encourages “an intersectional approach to equity work.” This year, thanks to collaboration between students at the Graduate School of Design and Harvard College, “Rooted” was unveiled — the first time the Harvard College Women’s Center has had a sculpture on display in honor of Women’s Week.

“Rooted” is a simple masterpiece. Taking the form of a tree, the 3-D printed body is adorned by reclaimed wood and cardstock taking the shape of leaves. The tree’s leaves, containing colors and patterns from cultures around the world, are reserved for responses to questions such as, “Who are some women in your life that keep you rooted?” Event attendees were encouraged to hang a leaf, but the sculpture is open for additions as the Harvard community continues to grow the tree.

The tree’s supports also act as shelving for potted plants, bringing life into a (wo)man-made tree. Moreover, the tree mimics the logo of the Harvard College Women’s Center, reinforcing the theme of the week and the people who made it possible. A tree certainly symbolizes the hope for the growth of the Women’s Center and their mission, but the inclusion of leaves that must be written on and attached by individuals puts this sense of collectivity and community into practice.

With its rebranding in 2006, the Harvard College Women’s Center has fought to create not only a safe space, but also a celebratory space for women and gender-expansive people — “Rooted” was a tangible manifestation of these efforts.

Women’s Week co-chair Jana Amin ’25 said that the sculpture has been in the works for nearly five months, but she noted that she was most excited for the attention the sculpture would garner beyond its unveiling.

“Today we’re just going to get as much traffic as possible and introduce people to the Women’s Center’s mission and vision,” Amin said.

Women’s Center undergraduate intern and artist Olivia F. Data ’26 shared Amin’s sentiment, noting that while Harvard students are “notorious” for their tight schedules, many were present for the unveiling.

“To come at 4 p.m. for the first event and see people already there was kind of surprising to me,” Data said. “There are a lot of faces here that I don’t recognize, and it’s really cool to know that we’re expanding our community.”

However, as someone interested in the “intersection between art and activism,” Data noted that there is more work to be done — both in terms of Women’s Week programming and on a larger scale.

Dulce M. Gonzalez Arias ’26, another Women’s Center undergraduate intern, created a zine overflowing with poetry and paintings from women across campus. This “labor of love” was a project Gonzalez Arias had in mind well before preparing this week, and she noted her excitement and amazement at the myriad of works submitted.

“There are so many creatives here that I feel like are not getting enough attention,” Gonzalez Arias said. “I was really proud to be able to feature them in the zine, especially during Women's History Month and for Women's Week.”

Pin Sangkaeo, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, noted the importance of uplifting women of all identities, pointing out that Harvard “owes minority communities.” Having moved across the country to study at Harvard, she further discussed how tricky it can be to navigate new spaces like Harvard while so far removed from one’s prior roots.

While just one work of art, the sculpture brought together countless creatives finding their roots amongst each other despite being so far from the original places they call home.

For Gonzalez Arias, “Rooted” has a flexible meaning that “changes everyday,” but for now, the strength of community roots her.

“Being grounded in each other’s presence is a very healing and a very euphoric thing,” she said.

For Data, it’s the “constants you have” that become one’s roots in discouraging times. For Data, art is such a constant.

Sangkaeo played an integral part in seeing the sculpture through to fruition. To her, this experience embodied the theme of “Rooted.”

“Especially at Harvard, I feel like people are so passionate about what they do,” Sangkaeo said. “Then you can keep pushing each other to go forward.”

Interim Harvard College Women’s Center director Bonnie Talbert described the process of the sculpture unveiling as “collective and participatory art.”

“A lot of people think of art as this great pinnacle of individual creativity,” Talbert said. “But it’s something that, in addition to being very unique, people can also share.”

Beyond the fact that the sculpture took many people to design and produce, the unveiling and programming were made possible by the partnership and dedication of women from around the world who have been brought together by Harvard’s campus. The women of the Harvard College Women’s Center and the Harvard community will remain rooted in the journey they embarked on together through the sculpture and programming of “Rooted.”

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