Open Spaces at ISU invites students to share talents and embrace cultural diversity


Several students gathered to learn how to play a Darbuka drum at the Open Spaces event Oct. 26 in the Great Hall. 

Maris Cameron

In 2019, Jean-Pierre Taoutel from Iowa State’s Department of World Languages and Cultures adopted a new program. Inspired by a French cultural learning center in Paris, Open Spaces at ISU was created to encourage face-to-face social interaction on campus. 

“Open Spaces is a place to come make new friends, have fun and teach others something new,” Taoutel said. “If you have a talent or hobby like juggling, doing yoga or playing chess, you can come here and connect with others by sharing that special skill,” Taoutel said. 

Open Spaces lets community members from various backgrounds come together to share their mutual passions and expose each other to new experiences. With time, the process promotes cultural understanding and breaks boundaries between people.

“You meet a lot of new people,” said Mari Alfaro, an open-option sophomore. “The first time you come you might feel awkward, but once you meet interesting people with different majors that shyness goes away.”

Alfaro was one of many students that attended Open Spaces on Oct. 26. Alfaro learned how to play a Darbuka drum for the first time.

For Jim Wang, a senior majoring in philosophy, Open Spaces was a chance for him to share his love for beatboxing. Throughout the night, Wang taught campus students vocal basics to improve their beatboxing skills and performed a brief demonstration.

“I heard about Open Spaces and Jean-Pierre through an email,” Wang said. “I simply brought in my own equipment, performed for people and ended up having a great time.”

Several other students enjoyed themselves by engaging in a free swing dance lesson on the other side of the hall under the student direction of Seniors Tyler Markve and Bailee Endries. 

“The goal is to make Open Spaces as big of an event as Iowa State’s After Dark program,” Taoutel said. “We hope we can receive more funding and provide food for students that attend in the future.”

Open Spaces is a monthly event that gives students the ability to learn new skills without having the time commitment and agenda of an organized club. Students can attend Open Spaces to learn something new or teach something to others. 

Students wanting to attend the next meeting of Open Spaces can convene at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union or visit Open Spaces on Facebook for additional information.