The Afro-American Cultural Center’s art gallery will be put to use this weekend for Black Life Celebration, a weekend-long series of events. The celebration kicks off with a reception in the Founders’ Room of the Af-Am House on Friday evening, and there will be continued events throughout the weekend.
Exhibit curators Elizabeth Spenst ’18 and Andrew Williams ’16 said they hope the event, opening Friday, generates a campus discussion on the history of the Af-Am House and also highlights the range of Black artistry on campus and in New Haven.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the house,” Spenst said. “It has a long history here.”
Symba Nuruddin ’16, a student volunteer at the Af-Am House, explained that the center’s art gallery has been empty for a long period of time, so it is exciting to utilize it for the upcoming event. Spenst said many artists and speakers will attend the exhibit, including Bisa Williams ’76, the former ambassador from the United States to the Republic of Niger; Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83, secretary and vice president for student life; and Pamela George, assistant dean of academic affairs. Each will all speak on a different era of the house’s history. Af-Am House Director Risë Nelson will conclude the discussion with a speech on working toward the future, Spenst said.
All artists featured in the exhibit are Black with diverse backgrounds of artistry, Nurruddin said. She added that the exhibition would showcase the inspiration of each of the artists.
“The idea was to highlight a range,” said Nuruddin. “We didn’t just want undergraduates. We contacted people from the School of Art and from New Haven.”
Christie Ramsaran ’17, whose prints are featured in the exhibit, said her work originates in her printmaking course last semester. She said current campus climate greatly influenced her, and she “vowed” to make each of her works meaningful.
She emphasized that her goal was to artistically represent the idea that Black women, as a group, are poorly understood.
“My last assignment for printmaking class focused on the idea that it’s difficult for people outside of a certain group to understand that group, without stereotyping,” Ramsaran said.
In addition to the prints and diverse mediums of arts, the exhibition will contain a large photo timeline that illustrates the history of the house, Spenst said.
She added that while organizers have established the agenda of events, they are still working on the organization of the visual exhibit. Nuruddin said they are still deciding on how to integrate certain pieces with the intersecting themes of the house’s history and the showcasing of Black artistry.