Courtesy of Aileen Ishmael

The New Haven Creative Arts Workshop — a community art school and nonprofit organization — is celebrating Black History Month with an exhibit titled “Made Visible: From Every Angle.” 

The exhibit is curated by Shaunda Holloway and featuring three Connecticut-based Black artists: Aileen Ishmael, Iyaba Ibo Mandingo and Kyle Kearson, who is also a museum technician at the Yale Center for British Art. “Made Visible: From Every Angle” is a streetside window exhibition on display from Feb. 1 through Feb. 28 at the Creative Arts Workshop at 80 Audubon St. in downtown New Haven. It is the fourth installment of the “Made Visible” series, a collection of exhibits centered around community issues that began in September. In light of the pandemic, the exhibit includes miniature and large-scale sculptures that address themes like police brutality, Black heritage and the Black experience.

“This exhibition celebrates Black history, but at the same time addresses some pretty poignant issues,” Holloway told the News. “This exhibition was about continuing conversations [and] celebrating Black excellence.”

Holloway, who was a featured artist in the November 2020 portion of the “Made Visible” series, said that CAW served as her “artistic home” for decades. After participating in the exhibition last fall, she said it “made sense” to “keep the community engaged” throughout Black History Month with another installment of the series.

Now, she is the curator for the exhibit, and she said each artist has a “distinct style” and “feels a responsibility to add to that continuum, to keep culture alive.”

Ishmael expressed similar sentiments.

“I want people to know Black is beautiful and even though we struggle and there are times where we think we can’t do this anymore, there’s hope,” Ishmael told the News. “If people can really see the art and be moved by the art, maybe they’ll think ‘Hey, maybe I need to do something. Maybe I can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.’”

Ishmael, who is an elementary school teacher in Hamden, created three separate pieces for the exhibit: “Say Her Name,” “Compartmentalize” and “Black Girl Magic.” Each piece is composed of different materials, such as wood and metal, and focuses on Black women and “the difficulties of a pandemic.”

“Compartmentalize” represents Ishmael’s attempt to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic. She glued together tiny black shadow boxes, each of which represents a different struggle for communities of color during the pandemic. One box contains a three-dimensional depiction of COVID-19 cells. A “Black Lives Matter” poster fills another. Sitting atop the boxes is a woman’s head made of clay.

Ishmael said that she wanted passersby to find hope in her pieces and to be “drawn in” by the messages of her art.

“Art is the universal language,” Mandigo told the News. “I really hope it engages young people … giving these kids inspiration.”

Mandigo, a Southern Connecticut State University alum currently residing in Bridgeport, described his work as “seeing the beauty in Africa, especially as an aesthetic.” At the root of all his work, Mandigo said he draws inspiration from his grandparents, who were also artists. Involvement in art creation, at all ages, is his “consistent memory.” Initially focused on painting, he began to experiment with sculpting about two years ago. Mandigo’s five sculptures, each standing at about 10 feet tall, have been displayed on Audubon Street.

Many of these sculptures use industrial tubes. In 2015, Mandigo spent six months in Nigeria and said he “rearranged his take on art.” There, he developed an interest in recyclable materials and sustainable sculpting, which led to his current style.

The goal of the exhibition, Holloway told the News, will be to emphasize community engagement. To do so, she said the exhibit will welcome community feedback on the CAW’s website from people who get the chance to view the display through the window. She encouraged members of the Yale community to go view the streetside exhibit.

“Made Visible: From Every Angle” will host an online panel with Holloway and the exhibition’s artists on Feb. 17.

Zaporah Price | zaporah.price@yale.edu