By Sophia Da Silva
For The Diamondback
“Telling Our Story: Community Conversations with Our Artists” is a unique exhibition on display at the David C. Driskell Center until Dec. 2.
The exhibition includes a wide variety of works by different African American artists. With abstract, classical, collages, prints and sculptures, it showcases the range of African American art.
“Black artists often get stereotyped, but this shows a wide variety of Black art that actually exists out there,” University of Maryland alum Pat Wheeler said.
The exhibit is curated by Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, an alum of this university and the outreach and operations associate director at American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center.
This show is the second of a series honoring the story and legacy of the Driskell Center and the late David C. Driskell himself.
Driskell was a prolific letter writer, which inspired Bryant-Greenwell as she created this homage.
“He wrote letters to so many artists, he was very involved in written connection, this personal intimate connection through the written word,” she said.
Bryant-Greenwell’s approach incorporated the community as co-curators. For the exhibition, she had community members from Washington, D.C., College Park and this university look at the permanent collection, select their favorite works and write letters to the artists.
“I think that the beauty of this work is … the act of sitting down, gathering your thoughts and writing a letter,” University of Maryland Art Gallery director Taras Matla said. “Very rarely do we spend time contemplating something, an idea, in this case artwork, and trying to understand how much of an impact those things have and putting that on paper.”
The letters, written by each of the guest selectors, were displayed alongside each piece of artwork.
“Reading each letter that the selector wrote has been a surprisingly emotional experience,” Alicia Perkovich, curatorial intern at the Driskell Center and senior art history and history major, said. “To see how people connect so personally to the work of the artist … has been one of my favorite parts about walking through the show.”
Community involvement was a primary theme of the evening. Individuals of all different backgrounds contributed, and the letters they wrote were what added an intimate layer to the show.
“It’s very important for our students to see the art through … the eyes of the community,” said Stephanie Shonekan, this university’s arts and humanities college dean. “It’s very important for them to understand that what they’re studying in their classrooms is experienced and lived in the community.”
The show was part of a push to include a wealth of voices in art.
“There’s no wrong way to enjoy an artwork,” Bryant-Greenwell said. “We have to make the process for everyone and include everyone.”