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Graduate plans to change the world — one photo at a time

May 8, 2017
KOKOMO, Ind. — A photograph can tell a story — and maybe even change the viewer’s mind or move him to action.

Inspired by an Indiana University Kokomo social justice class, one graduate wants to use his skills as a photographer to tell the stories of refugees, sharing their culture, as well as the insecurity and injustice they face as they seek a place of safety in the world.

“There’s a story behind each and every one of those people,” said Rob Trlak, who graduates this month with a degree in new media communication. “I’ll be able to take photographs and film, and use it for the benefit of people who do not have a voice because of their situations. The social entrepreneurship class let me really step into that world, and get a deeper insight into social enterprise and humanitarian applications.”

Students in class, taught by Karla Stouse, lecturer in English, developed businesses to compete in the 2017 Hult Prize President’s Challenge, Refugees – Reawakening Human Potential. The challenge, which is open to college students worldwide, focuses on restoring the rights and dignity of people and societies forced into motion by social injustices, politics, economic pressures, climate change, and war. Winners can earn up to $1 million in seed money for their enterprises.

Trlak, with classmates Danielle Schultz and Austin Miller, developed Nova Vox Media, which merges media applications with photography, video, and others, to promote the plight of the humanitarian crisis of refugees.

“Our goal is to tell the stories of refugees through photography and documentary video, and showcase them from an artistic standpoint,” he said. “We want to celebrate their arts and culture in a way that is beneficial to them, and demystifies it.

“A lot of the problem with refugee resettlement is that people don’t understand each other’s cultures,” Trlak said. “Art is a way to break down those barriers. These are people who have fundamental human rights being denied to them simply because of where they came from, their ethnicity, and their religion. Maybe if we focus on their culture, we can help them, and change people’s minds a little bit.”

Trlak is excited to participate in the first IU Kokomo Art Gallery Senior Exhibition that includes graduates from both the new media communication and fine arts programs together, because of the merger into the New Media, Art, and Technology program. He’s exhibiting three photographs, printed on large canvas.

“By including new media, it shows that art is art,” he said. “Whether you use a computer, a pencil, a piece of charcoal, or a camera, it’s art. This is my first gallery exhibition ever. It’s really awesome.

“For me, art is a vehicle of expression. It’s a vehicle of storytelling. It’s a vehicle to capture a moment, and allow people to connect with it.”

The exhibit continues through Wednesday, May 10. It is free and open to the public in the Gallery, in the IU Kokomo Library Building, 2300 S. Washington St. Free parking is available on campus.

The IU Kokomo Art Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and Fridays.

For more information about the IU Kokomo Art Gallery’s, visit iuk.edu/gallery.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana

Last updated: 04/04/2018