— by Jordan Cameron, Marketing & Communications Specialist
Headshot of Laila Islam

Every year, the Marian Locks Senior Award is given to a graduating senior at Moore College of Art & Design, providing them with an opportunity to jumpstart their career. The Locks Family Foundation has endowed the Marian Locks Award, which is granted competitively, to help Moore graduates make the transition from undergraduate education to a creative career. 

Hear about Laila Islam’s plans for the monetary gift below.


I am so honored and I feel encouraged [to receive the Marian Locks Senior Award]! My senior year I had a lot of fulfilling experiences that felt like signs that I’m really aligned with my purpose, signs that gave me a sense of direction to knowing what it is I want to do with my life and my curatorial career. Receiving the Marian Locks Senior Award, having an investment in my career, is the biggest affirmation. To be supported and recognized in this way makes me feel confident and assured that I am on the right path. It also feels like this is just the beginning for me. I’m excited to have a future ahead of me that’s full of options and opportunities.

Throughout my senior thesis I studied somatic (soma) therapy and somatic art practices. Somatic therapy is a method of processing trauma through body exercises and explorations such as breathwork, yoga, dance and meditations that typically conclude with open discussions. The practice is based on the idea that we do not just internalize trauma mentally, but we also internalize trauma in our nervous system and in our habitual practices. Therefore, we can heal through healing body practices. I’m interested in how an educational approach to somatic therapy, somatic pedagogy, can be used in creative spaces as healing art-making exercises for those who’ve experienced systemic harm. Somatic pedagogy is really a method of healing for oppressed peoples that is centered around pleasure, play and interpersonal connection.

Thumbnail from Laila Islam's senior thesis video. Islam is sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a purple galaxy background. Islam's hands are crossed on their chest and the text reads: "How light does your body feel, no longer suppressed by gravity?"

To further my studies on this practice and with the support of the Marian Locks Award, I will receive a certification in Somatic Therapy at a soma institution in California. This will allow me to do two things: I will be able to consider myself a trauma-informed cultural arts leader and community organizer. Meaning that I will be able to cultivate healing spaces and facilitate programming for people of color from a knowledgeable place. I will also be able to continue my studies where I will document and write about the involvement of soma in art classrooms and art studios as transformative and healing spaces for people of color. I think somatic pedagogical art practices have the potential to become an art movement similar to Afrofuturisms and futurisms alike. At least I hope so; I would love to see a world where it’s popular to build a connection with your body and to process trauma through body-centered art-making! I plan to receive a certification in somatic therapy so I can document this burgeoning movement while leading my own projects in this field.

I had the most fruitful semesters when I gave myself the right balance of taking myself and my work seriously while allowing myself to lightheartedly live in my youth. When I started college at Moore, I set the intention to use the experience to build a foundation for my career. This was important, and I’m grateful that I was able to achieve this goal, but I found that in some cases, it was my friendships and the fun moments that I had as an undergraduate that really gave me a sense of direction in life and showed me opportunities I would had not have been aware of otherwise. You may find that in some instances the friends you make, the people you come across, and the fun experiences you have might provide you with more insight and guidance than the classroom. [My advice for future Moore students is] leave the dorms, go out and meet people in this amazing city, go to fun events. I honestly wish I did that more. Seize the day while also planting seeds for future flowers.

An event poster showing illustrations of figures dancing, food, and art in bright neon colors against a dark purple background. The text reads: Young People's Art Mart May 28, 3-7 pm Crane Arts Building 1400 N American St. A festival centering creatives under 25

I’ll lastly quickly plug that I’m cohosting an amazing event this May 28 called the Young People’s Art Mart: A festival centering creatives under 25! This all-day event will feature young artist vendors and youth-led community organizations, a series of music performances, a youth town hall installation at the Crane Arts Building, and food vendors! Check out more information here.

Headshot by David Rizzio. 

Thumbnail from SOMATIC UTOPIC IMAGINING: GUIDED MEDITATIONS AND EXERCISES by Laila Islam ’22, courtesy of the artist.

Event poster for Young People's Art Mart courtesy of Laila Islam.