Imagine a world-class museum on campus — that’s how Melanie Woody Nguyen, curatorial assistant and registrar at the University of Maryland Art Gallery, describes it now that it features two exhibits exploring African and BIPOC perspectives on spirituality, motherhood and reproductive justice.

This university’s Art Gallery, located in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building, held a preview Tuesday of their two exhibits, which are now open to the public: “African Art from the Dr. Gilbert and Jean Jackson Collection” and Coralina Rodriguez Meyer’s “Mother Molds.”

The preview was held in collaboration with the NextNOW Fest and exhibitions were made in association with the university’s Arts for All initiative. The preview and exhibits allow this university to “make incredible works of art accessible to a broad range of people,” said Arts for All director Craig Kier.

[Our World Through Art in Stamp Gallery]

Art Gallery Director Taras Matla organized the “African Art” exhibit displayed in the gallery, featuring objects from the collection of two university alumni.

“Every exhibition starts with a conversation. The conversation moves to the concept, the concept turns into procuring material, and then the material tells the story,” Matla said. “These objects tell great stories of different areas.”

The Art Gallery has been presenting and interpreting African art for 50 years, according to information on the gallery’s walls. The current exhibit features a Yoruba offering bowl and wooden mother-child figures, among other objects from across the continent.

“This exhibit in particular really speaks to me because I’m from Nigeria. I grew up there,” sophomore psychology major Nel Odike said.

Stephanie Shonekan, dean of this university’s arts and humanities college, also highlighted her connection to the exhibit as a Nigerian woman.

Shonekan also emphasized the importance of the exhibition for students who are not of African descent, as it allows the university community to understand the continent’s “rich culture and rich histories,” she said.


“This is a really important exhibition not only for the University of Maryland, but for so many of our students and our faculty,” Shonekan said.

The other exhibit currently featured in the Art Gallery is the contemporary “Mother Molds series by queer, indigenous Latin American artist Coralina Rodriguez Meyer.

Meyer’s work centers on BIPOC  birthing people who have been impacted by the reproductive health crisis in the U.S. through the use of colorful plaster-cast sculptures of the bodies of pregnant people.

“Art is a way to kind of rethink or look anew at issues of our time,” Nguyen said. “Coralina does that really well in thinking about birthing and reproductive justice and the maternal health crisis. And so I hope students can kind of come and also think about those things and also think about how they can kind of take that back to their own communities.”

The two exhibits will be on display until the beginning of December. The Art Gallery’s hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Every time I come here I say this is the best one I’ve ever seen,” Shonekan said. “But this really is the best one.”