“Where is Black Art?”— and where is student support for it?

On Thursday, Feb. 22, the Wriston Art Center hosted the video premiere of “Where is Black Art?” Shown as part of the Black Feminist Fortnight, the premiere consisted of two short films made by the Lawrence community. Taking place in Wriston 224, the event ran from 4:30 p.m. to approximately 5:30 p.m. 

The event started with a brief introduction by Assistant Professor of Music Ann Ellsworth and Assistant Professor of Art History, Curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries and Museum Studies Interdisciplinary Area Program Director Beth Zinsli, in which they detailed their involvement in the project. After everyone was settled in with their refreshments, they proceeded to show the two films. The first focused primarily on two dancers of color, and the second retold the colonialist story of the Donner party. 

While I was impressed and interested by the two films, I was also surprised by how few people came to the event. Besides my friend and I, the two professors, and a handful of people I recognized from Lawrence’s staff, there were not many people there. I would say there were probably about 10 to 15 people in total. 

Out of the people there, only half or less were Lawrence students. While I know that the Lawrence Busy is very real, I could not help but feel a little bit uncomfortable with how few of my peers were there. This feeling only grew when I thought about the fact that I probably would not have been there myself if I was not writing an article on it. 

I remember how many people came out for Lawrence’s production of “As You Like It,” and how many people went to watch the Winter Term choir concert. Clearly, we as students make time for the events that we want to go to. Why, then, did so few people make time to celebrate Black art?

I am not saying that those who did not go were trying to avoid Black art; that would be a gross and inaccurate generalization. But I do think it’s important to be aware of what events we make time for, and of sports, concerts, plays and video premieres focusing on underrepresented demographics. 

The films themselves were captivating, thought-provoking and beautiful. Some parts of the second film provided necessary comedic relief. I loved the motif of the color red in the first film and hearing from members of the Lawrence community in the second. 

Getting to watch and listen to a celebration of Black art was a meaningful experience, and I hope that more people are able to do so in the future. If you’re looking for more ways to engage with the Black Feminist Fortnight, I recommend checking out the upcoming events on the Wriston Art Center’s website. 

For instance, on March 4 there will be a poetry reading with Dasha Kelly Hamilton from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Wriston Art Center lobby (Room 202) as part of the Black Feminist Fortnight series. I’m sure there will be even more events, whether or not they are part of the series.

If you’re reading this, thank you for sticking with me! I know that many people are busy and stressed as we head into Week 10. My parting note would be to encourage everyone to be aware of what kinds of events you make time for and any biases that may surface in that process.