Flaten Art Museum held an opening reception for its newest exhibit, “More Than That: Diversity within Diversity” Thursday, Feb. 21. This particular exhibit showcases ceramic pieces from artists of color with different backgrounds and experiences.

Flaten Museum Curator and Director, Jane Becker Nelson helped bring this exhibit to campus alongside Professor of Art, Art History and Education, Paul Briggs and studio art technician Kate Fisher, in the hopes of highlighting underrepresented voices and artists.

“It was our desire to amplify underrepresented voices,” Becker Nelson said. “We envisioned an exhibition that could reclaim spaces, like our museum, like our campus, that had traditionally excluded or overlooked artists of color.”

Guest curator and artist, Robert Lugo echoed the goals of Becker Nelson.

Lugo said the exhibit aims “to not only represent artists of color currently working in ceramics, but the diversity of discourse taking place in our communities.”

Through the art of ceramics, artists explored various topics such as displacement, environmental sustainability and mass incarceration. Each artist – including Briggs – contributed work that tells a different story.

Two of Brigg’s pieces are titled “Cell Persona (Probation)” and “Black Perseverance.” These works tell the story of the mass incarceration of black bodies.

“We envisioned an exhibition that could reclaim spaces, like our museum, like our campus, that had traditionally excluded or overlooked artists of color.” – Jane Becker Nelson

“[The work] uses space as a metaphor for characteristics of personality as it relates to the environment,” Briggs said.

As students, faculty and members of the Northfield community looked at the work in the museum, many also wandered across the hall to look at another exhibition currently being shown in Groot Gallery. This exhibit, titled “Uprising II Iconic Identities,” was curated by Shaquille Brown ’19.

“Uprising II,” a collection of artwork by students, faculty and alumni, centers around the black communit and explores varying narratives and aspects of black idetity.

“This show is not only an expression of resistance, it is also a narration of our demand to feel at home on the Hill,” Brown said.

After the 2017 campus protests regarding institutional racism, Brown was inspired to create a space on campus where members of the community could find simultaneous healing and self-expression.

“‘Uprising II’ focuses on the perceptions and reality of blackness while celebrating the diversity of identity while highlighting some of  the deterrents to that celebration,” Brown said.

Becker Nelson commented on the connections between the two exhibits currently in the Center for Art and Dance.

“The two exhibitions celebrate a similar theme while highlighting an important conversation taking place in each gallery,” Becker Nelson said.

Both art exhibits bring a diversity of thought, perspectives and experiences to the St. Olaf community, starting conversations surrounding identity and diversity.

bermel1@stolaf.edu