ProjectUs by Toni Shindler-Ruberg

In conjunction with an article in the MArk, December Issue 2018.

All photo credit: ProjectUs

The MArk and the M-A Chronicle talked with the founders of ProjectUs, an artistic empowerment group, to learn more about the group and their goals for the future.

What is ProjectUs?

ProjectUs is a club that aims to celebrate individuality and identity through artistry. We wanted to create a platform for self-empowerment that anybody could be a part of and celebrate their individuality. We all face stress and insecurities. We wanted to build a space [to empower] people by doing something fun to add another element of positivity to M-A's campus.

Our purpose is to exist outside of societal standards and provide a space to discover and embrace self-worth and identity regardless of the norms.We do want to address unrealistic and harmful standards regarding beauty and self-identity, expectations that make people question their own worth.

Founding members of ProjectUs. From left to right: Juniors Elena Maghsoodnia, Emma Doughery, Avani Anne, Nicole McCutcheon, Jamie Durden, and Emma Milenky.

What inspired the creation of this project?

We had the idea for a body positivity club last year but this year wanted to add more elements to it — branching into other identities and incorporating our shared love of art. We wanted to create a platform for self-empowerment where anybody could go to celebrate their individuality. We all face stress and insecurities and we wanted to build a space for people to feel empowered.

We want to spread the message that there is beauty in every individual.

What’s wrong with how society views body image, mental health, etc.?

Society and media glorify certain beauty standards, pushing these impossible, flawless images. We want to use our club as a way to accept that we are different than these standards and embrace ourselves, allowing us to break free of the strict guidelines for beauty, sexual orientation, body type, race, etc. seen in the media.

ProjectUs members Nicole McCutcheon and Avani Anne posing peacefully in a field.
Founding member Jaime Durden, surrounded by common societal pressures.

Who is this club for?

This club is for anyone and everyone. We encourage anyone to get involved if they feel like the message resonates with them, and hopefully that will attract a diverse group of people in itself.

Why should people join this club?

The club brings a celebration of individuality that anybody can connect to and apply to their own journey of self-empowerment — ProjectUs is a safe space for anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of it. The club is in its very early stages of development and there’s so much room for it to grow. We’re open to any ideas, we want people to help us build it into a space that works for anyone.

[We want] to spread the feeling of empowerment and make others feel a sense of pride and self worth.

Why is the artistic aspect of your club important?

We hope that incorporating our shared love of art into our passion about self-empowerment and appreciation would be a fun way to get our work out there and for others to see our message through art as opposed to just hearing it.

Art has always been a powerful way to reach people and spread a message. It adds another layer to the conversation while making it more accessible to a broader audience. Words can only go so far in regards to self-empowerment, and especially given our generation’s relationship with social media, visuals often resonate better. We hope that the various creative elements that we’re implementing have a greater impact than the words that everyone’s heard before.


Short term, we are currently doing lots of photoshoots, and want to spread our message and get the word out. Long term, we hope to continue making art but maybe also expand to various events and services, promoting the idea in our school that there is something to celebrate in every individual. To be honest, our club isn’t trying to revolutionize society.

What should people be looking forwards to?

We’re definitely going to be doing plenty of photoshoots throughout the year for anyone to participate in, hopefully we’ll expand to some fundraising, and we plan to use our art to create some kind of t-shirt.

How can people get involved?

Like we said before, it’s open to absolutely anyone. People could get involved by coming to meetings, coming to photoshoots, pitching us ideas on how we can expand to other groups of people, etc. Art is also a major component of our fundraising, so we will accept submissions to add to our portfolio. These pieces will be sold to raise money for various organizations throughout the year. We meet on the first Wednesday of every month in G-14, to discuss what projects (photoshoots, future fundraising, etc.) we want to focus on for that month.

Created By
Toni Shindler-Ruberg


All photos: ProjectUs

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