Photo courtesy of Nemo Miller.

During finals week, the library looks like an eerie scene from a horror movie. Students stare out from booths with deep eye-bags and sullen expressions. The fluorescent lights above dimly flicker as the clack of typing fingers echoes down the hall in unison. Steady sobs create a mournful chorus as students contemplate the next week of their existence.

Finals are a horrendously stressful time for students. As exams draw closer, it seems as if there is never enough time to study, let alone perform necessary operations such as sleeping or eating. Overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, students devolve into some sort of fatigued, overworked zombie.

That is where Nemo Miller’s finals week art installation comes in. Titled “A Safe Space for Stressed Out Students,” otherwise known as “The Cry Closet,” Miller’s work will go up on the first floor of the Marriott Library just in time for the finals week chaos.

Miller is a graduating senior at the University of Utah’s ceramics program. While most of her art is made of clay, this piece is a little different.

“I am providing a space for students who are studying during finals week to go take a five to ten-minute break in a nice cushy … soft environment away from all the harsh lights of the library,” Miller said.

The project is essentially a small independently-standing closet. Inside, the walls are padded and lined with soft fabric. The floor is covered with piles of comforting stuffed animals. The door has two soft lights which can be turned on and off to adjust to each student’s individual comfort.

The work began as part of an assignment for Miller’s woodshop techniques class, where students were instructed to create a project focused on social intervention.

“The initial idea of when I was rationalizing why I wanted to make a safe space really came from the idea of me personally graduating and trying to provide myself a space of safety and I was like, I guarantee other students need that too,” Miller said.

Miller constructed the closet with the help of her family. Her father and uncle both have previous experience in construction work and were able to show her how to build the box.

Nemo Miller
Nemo Miller constructing the box for her “Cry Closet.”

“Growing up, my safe space in my house was the bathroom so it was like, providing an alternate space to have feelings away from the rest of the house,” Miller said.

Art like Miller’s “The Cry Closet” can help others to cope with personal difficulties, such as the stress and anxiety that many face during finals week. Filled with warmth and comfort, this installation will help students as they work through their end-of-semester tests, papers and projects.

“I hope students actually use it and enjoy and are just given that space to decompress amid the craziness of finals week,” Miller said.



Shaelyn is a fourth year at the University of Utah studying Political Science and Journalism in the hopes that someday she can be a travel writer. She is especially passionate about social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights, and mental health awareness. In her (very rare) free time she loves to hike, paint, and read.


  1. How do you pronounce Nemo Miller’s first name? I’m a reporter at KUER and I’d like to share this story with our radio listeners while crediting the Chrony.
    Bob Nelson

    • Hi Mr. Nelson,
      Nemo Miller’s first name is pronounced Nee-Mow, the same way you would pronounce Finding Nemo. Thanks for your interest in this story!
      Shaelyn Barber

  2. This cry closet concept makes me feel ashamed to be a Ute. I am embarrassed to be associated by degree with this University. Oh well, come donation time, I will just tell them go use their cry closet.

  3. Social justice as defined by the left provides favoritism for certain demographics and bias against others and exchanges our right to freedom of opinion and speech with political correctness. Social justice sounds righteous but as directed It is a philosophy that inevitably intimidates and divides us, thus resulting in the opposite outcome to a glue that binds us.


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