If you go to ArtPrize, you might see one of Ferris’ very own students as the subject of an art piece.
Emily Garlick, an integrative studies senior, is displayed on a near life-size picture titled “Empowerment through Emily’s story.” Garlick is in an elegant gown in front of her walker, which she has because she has cerebral palsy, a movement disorder.
Over the picture is a poem written by Garlick titled “My Walker Does Not Define Me.”
The image was taken by Bri Luginbill, a 2011 Grand Valley graduate who now owns a photography studio in downtown Grand Rapids. Garlick said she had a photo shoot done last year for Luginbill’s “Go Boldly, Love Your Body” campaign.
A few months ago, Garlick said Luginbill reached out to her again and asked if she could use the picture and poem for her ArtPrize entry.
“It’s been kind of surreal for both of us,” Garlick said. “I don’t think when I said yes I realized how big of a deal it was going to be.”
Luginbill said she chose Garlick out of all the people she’s photographed because of Garlick’s positivity.
“Emily stood out to me because she was the most positive person that I photographed and yet she probably struggled with some of the most intense adversity I’d ever seen,” Luginbill said. “She was very confident with her body image when I met her and was outgoing and willing to talk to anyone who wanted to talk about body image positivity.”
Garlick said her positivity came from years of realization and attitude changes.
“I used to spend a lot of time wanting to be like everyone else,” Garlick said. “For a long time I didn’t like being different. I didn’t like [having a walker] and I didn’t like that everything was harder. But I realized, in the past decade, that nobody is normal, and normality is an illusion. A lot of people you meet, you never know what their struggle is or what they’ve been through or had to deal with. We all have our challenges and this is just mine and that’s okay.”
The message of Garlick’s poem is that her challenge is just more visible than most people’s and she hopes someday everyone can appreciate each other’s bodies.
“I think attitude is a big thing,” Garlick said. “It frames your whole life. I could be really depressed about this and I could choose to be really negative about it, but to me, that’s a waste of time. I totally have bad days, but in general, I’m just living my life and doing my thing. In a way, it’s kind of like the ArtPrize thing is a huge deal and I’m very flattered, but at the same time, I don’t think of myself as that cool. I’m just a person trying to live my life.”
Luginbill said working with Garlick was an eye-opening experience.
“Working with Emily made me a more positive person,” Luginbill said. “She has a way of lighting up a room. She has a great attitude and charisma that’s contagious. You can’t help but be in a better mood after just being with her for 30 minutes. She’s been through more obstacles than most, but maintained a higher positivity than many.”
The aspects of Garlick’s life that do define her are her love of music, her church and horseback riding. Garlick is in the Big Rapids women’s choir, Voca Lyrica, and is the children’s choir director at United Church. All of these combined with her “good community of people in [her] life” have helped her develop the mindset she has today.
“If you feel good about yourself internally, it’s going to show on the outside,” said Garlick. “You’re going to be this magnet person and people are going to want to be around you.”
Luginbill and Garlick’s photograph is on the second floor of DeVos Place. The vote code is 61842. ArtPrize goes through Wednesday, Oct. 11.