By Emily Attebery
Scattered magazines from years past lay on wooden tables, they mark the attention of a future designer for the very same magazine. Chris Kasanga’s first thoughts are that this magazine was designed by a professional team, not a group of students. The creation of the Bell Tower magazine was meant to give that impression; skillful student work.
Since the first year of the Bell Tower’s publication in 2007, the entire process has been student driven. However, that was not the case with the Bell Tower’s predecessor the TouchStone, which included only literary work that both faculty and students could submit.
“So while it was a wonderful journal, it was not entirely student generated, as we would wish,” said Linda Gary, English Professor and Department Chair for Humanities and Philosophy.
When Dr. Gary came to TJC in 2005, she realized the gap of having a student led journal. She and Sarah Harrison, the English department chair at the time, decided to speak to (former) Dean Richard Mintor and said what they wanted to create. Mintor was able to take money from his budget to start the new journal. Gary then started a collaboration between herself, Derrick White in the art department and Torrey Wylie in Graphic Arts (now Visual Communications).
“We decided to create a partnership and so we began accepting submissions in the fall of 2006 and the first edition came out in the spring of 2007 and we’ve continued from there,” said Gary.
Students from these departments help create the design on the cover of the Bell Tower. They design the layout, they are part of the selection process and they also submit their own work. A printmaking class is in charge of the cover, and a digital publishing class designs the interior layout. Random selections are made to group teams in the classes. Each of the three departments involved also has a faculty and student advisor for the committee. The committee rates all the submissions and chooses the best.
“Is it dark? can you see it? Is it a well taken photo or is it cliché-ish? Is it a picture of a flower? We probably get 200 flowers submitted every time,” said Visual Communications Professor Torrey Wylie.
The amount of student work that goes into the Bell Tower is what Dr. Gary says stands out as the most remarkable trait of the journal.
“The students actually get real world experience of taking something from nothing,” said Wylie.
The Bell Tower is not only celebrated on the TJC campus, it has also won awards at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. Two years out of the 10 that the Bell Tower has participated in TIPA, they have won the best overall award for the literary magazine category.
Winning best overall is “like winning the best picture at the academy awards,” said Gary.
Simply winning a selection into the Bell Tower is enough for some students, but finding out their accomplishment is an exciting experience on its own.
“I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a good feeling, ‘cause I was like, ‘hey my picture got selected! I did something good!’,” said sophomore Jalen Johnson, whose photograph of his 3-year-old cousin was selected.
The winning cover for the 2016 edition was designed by Chris Kasanga. When he started school at TJC, Kasanga became curious about the older editions of the Bell Tower he saw scattered around campus but was never aware that his design could be chosen.
“No, not at all . . . I thought before that they had like a special team doing the magazine, I didn’t know it was done by students,” said Kasanga.
Part of the printmaking class that designs the cover, Kasanga and his classmates were given the assignment to create a magazine cover, using the Bell Tower as an example. It turned out that the winning design would actually become the real Bell Tower.
“It’s always exciting to see your work coming to life, being used for real, its real exciting to see that,” said Kasanga.
The hands-on experience these classes get to work with contribute much to the work they will do in their future careers.
“Getting published is a really big thing. You get portfolio samples — that’s what we’re after in our department — building their future,” said Wylie.
The publication of the Bell Tower is something that will be part of TJC history for a long time, and that’s the hope of Kasanga.
“They will be used as examples for other students who will come after me . . . It’s very good to know that you have something you created that will maybe inspire other people,” said Kasanga.
The 2016 issue of the Bell Tower will be revealed at the Launch Party on April 11 at 2 p.m. in the Art lobby of Jenkins Hall. Everyone is welcome to attend the party. The revealing will also be part of the 2nd Annual Arts Festival that includes 30 days of different events, performers, guest artists, speakers and exhibits. For a list of events go to www.tjc.edu/info/2004129/humanities_communications_and_fine_arts/840/2016_arts_festival