Fabric. Photo Montage. Digital Painting. Charcoal. Music Media. Ceramics.
Everywhere a visitor looks in the new Groot Gallery art exhibit, there is a new work created in a new medium by a new artist. No signs, no explanatory plaques. Here, the art speaks for itself — and the powerful story it tells is one of Black presence at St. Olaf College.
Curated by Shaquille Brown ’19, Uprising | Black Reign: Narrating Black Expression on the Hill, features the work of St. Olaf students, faculty, and one recent graduate.
“Every piece of art in this show explores some specific narrative of Blackness,” Brown writes in her Curatorial Statement. “The variation of media in this show is a testament to the versatility of Black artists at St. Olaf and in our wider global community. Our stories are diverse, and they will be heard.”
The show runs through February 26 in the Center for Art and Dance’s Groot Gallery, and it will be reinstalled in the Flaten Art Museum June 1-3 for Reunion Weekend.
In inviting artists to participate in the show, Brown did not ask that their work fit into a specific theme. “Originally the concept was ‘a seat at the table,’ and I knew that I wanted the gallery transformed into a home. With that in mind, I knew that I could arrange any piece of art into that setting,” says Brown, an international student from Kingston, Jamaica. “I did not want to force a theme. So many people expect that Black art has to have a political theme to it, but I disagree. For me, ‘Black Art’ is simply art created by Black artists, and Black works occupying a space like Groot was in and of itself political enough.”
“The variation of media in this show is a testament to the versatility of Black artists at St. Olaf and in our wider global community. Our stories are diverse, and they will be heard.”
Brown hopes that the exhibit will help people acknowledge and celebrate the depth of the contributions of Black students, faculty, and staff to the St. Olaf community. She notes that the exhibit was intentionally designed to symbolize “the fractured atmosphere surrounding race” in the community.
“The colorful home installed inside Groot’s white walls plays on the reality of many Black students, faculty, and staff at St. Olaf: decorative black faces interrupting a white space,” she notes in her Curatorial Statement.
The opening reception and viewing of the show had an impressive turnout, and Brown hopes to make exhibitions like hers an annual event at St. Olaf.
“This show is first and foremost narration and celebration of Black life on the Hill,” she says, adding that it’s also an opportunity for members of Black community “to occupy space and have our presence seen and felt at St. Olaf: to demand the privilege of also feeling at home at St. Olaf.”