Exhibit sparks discussion on childbirth mortality rates

Kayleigh Kuykendall February 25, 2015 0

On Tuesday, an opening reception was held for Carol Galligan’s exhibit “Birth Memorial…a Memorial to Women Who Died in Childbirth.” Galligan’s three-part exhibit was sponsored by the Department of Fine and Performing Arts and held in the Lyet Gallery on the second floor of Leffler Chapel and Performance Center.

During the reception, Galligan explained her purpose for creating her art, admitting that the pieces hadn’t been created with the intention of serving as a call for social activism but rather as her feelings regarding the subject of maternal mortality in a creative form.

“I think [Galligan’s] message really came through on her use of scale. She likes to work large, and students majoring in the fine arts usually don’t. Her technique and use of color and texture is amazing in that you can see all the violence of the issue really coming through in these pieces,” junior fine arts major Meghan Kreider said.

During the event, junior international business major Tessa Cruikshank, co-founder and CEO of Hera Brand, explained the impact maternal mortality plays throughout the world and how much of an impact it has on many women’s lives every day. This commitment to informing and bringing awareness of maternal mortality to the public eye plays a large role in her position at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center where she works on providing solutions to this crisis.

“Due to poverty and lack of infrastructure, the most basic human right to life is being violated in developing nations. These gross violations come in the form of drastically high maternal mortality rates,” Cruikshank said. She explained that one woman dies every two minutes from pregnancy and childbirth complications.

“Eighty percent of maternal deaths could be averted with access to maternity and basic health-care services. A girl growing up in Chad today is more likely to die in childbirth than she is to attend secondary school. By a show of hands, how many people here think that’s OK?” Cruikshank asked.

During the event, it was revealed that a design competition is currently being held at Elizabethtown College in which the engineering department has been tasked with forming interdisciplinary teams to design innovative concepts and ideas around the formation of a Mobile Midwife Kit. This will allow midwives around the globe to not only better deliver healthy babies but maintain the mother’s health as well. The tool kit will include necessary products such as antibiotics, a mobile power source for monitoring machines, pop up shelters and mosquito nets, UV lights for sanitation of medical utensils and other items necessary for a successful birth. The project is hoped to be launched at the end of the year, manufactured and then shipped worldwide.

“This event was really eye-opening because it’s not a subject you think about on a daily basis,” sophomore political science major Emily West said. “It’s not something that comes up a lot in society. I think Tessa’s work is amazing and with Women’s History Month coming up, I think this subject is something that could really be brought to light here at Elizabethtown College.”

Galligan wrapped up the reception by explaining how her exhibit has been somewhat ill-received in the past, feeling as if people are too afraid to allow the subject matter into the public eye.

She found that she sees childbirth as a somewhat romanticized concept in our world, maternal mortality being passed off as an unchangeable aspect of giving birth. She emphasized the idea of looking at birth realistically and urged others to ask for the stories of woman in their own lives, mothers, sisters and grandmothers alike, to better understand how pregnancy and childbirth impact our world.

Galligan was an instructor at the College, and she holds a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology, College of Fine Art and Design, Rochester, N.Y.

According to the Handprint Identity Project website, “[Galligan] has exhibited her work in major exhibitions on the east coast including the Paula Allen Gallery, NYC; the Lancaster Museum of Art; Franklin and Marshall College; Villanova University; the University of Pennsylvania; New York University; and many others. She has also exhibited her work internationally in Japan, Italy and Korea.”

The exhibit is open to the public 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.


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