Officers from the Department of Public Safety opened their weeklong art exhibit, “Beyond the Badge,” in the Galen Center on Tuesday afternoon.
This is the first year DPS has thrown an art show, and it displays work from DPS officers and staff, including paintings, drawings and poetry.
Sergeant Rick Gonzalez came up with the idea about a year ago and approached Elaine Ray, executive assistant to DPS Chief Thomas, about starting the show after Ray had mentioned that she had taken art classes over the years.
“[Sergeant Gonzalez] asked me to help him out and maybe get an art show going, so it’s been about a year and a half, and it was largely his idea,” Ray said.
DPS Chief John Thomas was surprised by the talent shown in the officers’ paintings and its effect on how the officers are viewed by the campus community.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the university campus community to see DPS officers in a nontraditional light and for them to showcase their talent,” Thomas said.
Ray had several works included in the display, in one of which using skateboards as the canvas and creates a painting that counters around the theme of punk rock.
“I have always been into punk rock and skateboarding, because all my guy friends were skateboarders,” she said.
Her skateboard work displays the band Bad Brains, pioneers of hard core punk, since she thought skateboard and punk rock would go well together. Ray decided to display this part of her childhood in her paintings.
Though she had not painted in 10 years prior to this display, she had the chance to teach in an art class for the DPS cadet program.
“I swear, every kid in that class had some sort of skill, and there were probably about five true, natural artists,” she said.
After seeing the positive effects of art classes on the cadet program, the officers wanted to put together more art classes and expand to areas such as painting and poetry.
Through the art exhibit, DPS is trying to better connect to student life, Ray said. These connections can be made by showing the various interests that these officers have, behind the uniforms and badges.
“It represents [that] we all have our own lives,” she said. “Unless someone really just sat me down and asked me about how I grew up, they wouldn’t know what I was into.”
The exhibition also included poetry, particularly from community service officer Anette Jacobs. Jacobs attended the School of Dramatic Arts at USC.
One of her poems, “Ancestors in the Wind,” was inspired by her grandmother’s battle with Alzeimer’s disease. A second poem was written on the morning of the memorial service for deceased DPS Officer Keith Lawrence and his fiancee, Monica Quan.
Ray said DPS wants to organize different ways to collaborate with the students, both through crime prevention and through the Greek community. An art show is one of the ways in which the department aims to do this.
“We try to think of ways to create more of a bond, rather than a fight,” Ray said.
After having worked in police enforcement for many years, Thomas says one of the biggest challenges is finding a way to humanize officers.
“In my 30 years in law enforcement, that’s always been one of the challenges, is how do you humanize [the officers] and make people understand that people that choose these professions in police work — they’re humans,” Thomas said.
Editors note: This post has been updated.