WORTHINGTON — Superheroes, insanity, death, family, and video games are just a few of the many ideas readers can find in the 2021-2022 issue of Unwound, the annual creative writing and arts magazine from Minnesota West Community & Technical College .
The magazine in its current form is the brainchild of Gillian Singler, English teacher and Chair of the College’s Humanities and Fine Arts Department.
While there had been a creative writing magazine before, the artwork in it had always come from outside the college. Singler instead chose to feature internal pieces from the many students in the college’s art department, handpicking them himself to match the themes and feel of the written pieces in the magazine.
“Last year we had to do everything online because of COVID-19. That worked out pretty well,” said Singler, who also edits and formats the journal.
Most of the “Unwound” pieces were written by the 15 students in Singler’s creative writing class, with some work by students in Composition I.
Samuel Van Westen, a creative writing student working on his associate degree, took the opportunity to write That Which Remains for the magazine, a standalone piece that is also part of a book project he’s been working on for the past 10 years is working.
“[It’s about]the futility of revenge — how you get lost in it and it doesn’t make sense,” Van Westen said.
His work is inspired by some of the recent fantasy genre writings that are less about epic battles between good and evil and more about people in a world where morality is shades of gray. This is his first publication and he is excited about it because it provides an opportunity to get reader feedback.
“When you work on a project for so long, you become overly clingy,” he said.
Partly due to the structure of the Creative Writing course, which this year was taught entirely online, the journal is mostly fiction and doesn’t contain much of the poetry that was part of it in previous years. The writing students are a mixed group of traditional, non-traditional, and PSEO high school-age students of diverse ages and interests, and many take creative writing to meet a requirement for an advanced writing course.
The students had all sorts of inspiration for their writing, from the transition to adulthood, to a love of dogs, to a family story about a mouse, to just watching a younger sibling play on the family farm.
During the writing process, they learned to work with short story exercises before fitting them into a larger narrative, playing with points of view and different writing techniques.
The artworks in the magazine are a similarly eclectic mix of sculptures, collages, pencil sketches, paintings, and mixed-media works by a variety of students, some of whom also take art, largely because it fills a common need, said Leah Gossom, Art Teacher.
“They’re not necessarily in love with art, but it gives them an opportunity to do something different,” Gossom said. “We’re having fun in here.”
Other students take the craft very seriously.
“Art is my life and I look forward to having the opportunity to express it,” said Samantha Brink, whose stylized pencil sketch portrait of a woman can be found on page 7 of Unwound.
Erin Langendorfer, who is working on a degree in education, created a sculpted bust of a Native American created for the journal this year.
“I created this piece to raise awareness about these issues,” Langendorfer said, citing the many Native Americans who had come together to protest the North Dakota oil pipelines and the growing movement to see the many Native Americans missing to recognize and find.
She didn’t expect her work to make it into the magazine.
“I was thrilled,” said Langendorfer.
Gossom said that many of the artworks in the magazine have themes and narratives, and that the students bring their cultural background and sense of place to their work.
Another highly symbolic piece is Rachel Moore’s “Heart,” in which every element, from color to shape, has a specific meaning and relation – surprising for a YouTuber widely known for playing the extremely complex building game Minecraft.
“It was very exciting. I always put her art in the lobby of our art space,” Gossom said. “(The journal) is a great opportunity to combine that with writing.”
Previous issues of Unwound have featured images from theater productions in Minnesota West, but due to scheduling, that wasn’t the case this year. However, Singler hopes to re-establish the journal as a broader representation of the liberal arts department at the college in the future.
“Through healing and reflection, through the creation and appreciation of art, we can get to know ourselves,” she wrote in the magazine’s introduction. “By knowing ourselves, we get to know each other. Put simply, without art, our world would not only be a less vibrant place, but also a less human place.”
Unwound can be found entirely online at mnwest.edu/student-life/clubs, and printed copies will be available on campus starting this month, Singler said.
The Faculty of Humanities and Fine Arts is hosting a spring arts exhibition open to the public on May 9 at 1:00 p.m. at the Center for Performing & Fine Arts on the Worthington campus. Some students will read excerpts of their work, either in person or via video, and many of the artworks featured in the magazine will also be on display.