Printed large on one wall is a compelling poem about a young woman’s experiences learning to love the black body she resides in. A few feet away, a colorful painting pays tribute to the late Kobe Bryant. And at the far end on the opposite wall, a photography series captures a kind of majesty of the three melanated women it depicts. These are just a few of the many amazing works of art featured in this year’s UPRISING III art exhibition.
A reception in Groot Gallery on Feb. 13 marked a successful opening of the third installment of this annual student-curated exhibition. UPRISING celebrates black history and culture at St. Olaf through visual and performing arts. This year’s exhibit is titled “New Perspectives: Narrating Black Presence and Expression on The Hill.”
In their opening remarks, the curators of the exhibition, Amanda Rose ’21 and Bridget Asamoah-Baffour ’21, spoke to the campus protests of 2017. The protests, sparked by a series of racist notes, inspired Shaquille Brown ’19 to pioneer the first UPRISING show in 2018. UPRISING has since become a continuation of the meaningful conversations around black students’ well-being on St. Olaf’s campus.
From poetry, ceramics and photography to drawings and paper zines, the exhibition features a wide range of artworks by students and faculty of color on campus.
“We focused a lot on variety but then also finding similar themes in the works,” Rose said when explaining some of the aspects of the curation process. “New Perspectives” seems to be a necessary reminder that black people, both domestic and international, are as similar as they are different.
“Black people aren’t a monolith. We don’t all have the same struggles and some of us maybe don’t want to share our struggles through our art,” Asamoah-Baffour said.
I will say, this opening event was not your typical reception. Music by black musicians like Bryson Tiller, Ari Lennox and The Carters, among others, poured through Groot Gallery, creating a vibrant and energetic atmosphere. Ask me if I have ever been to an art exhibition where, apart from walking around and looking meaningfully at art, there are also black students dancing and singing out loud to the lyrics of some of their favorite songs – my answer is no. Seeing this, I thought, this is what it must mean to create spaces of freedom on our campus. This is what it must mean to make a home through art and invite the world to witness it – to witness us.
The exhibition runs until Feb. 22, and it will definitely be worth your time to go and soak it all in.