For years, adults have had the opportunity to submit their artwork for an exhibition commemorating Black History Month.
This year the students had the same opportunity.
The Black Muse exhibition, hosted in partnership with the Manasota Chapter of Association for the Study of the Life and History of African American Americans, Art Center Sarasota, and the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative, has been held annually for adults for more than 10 years.
This year’s exhibition, however, was only virtual, which left the gallery space at Art Center Sarasota.
Elizabeth Goodwill, Director of Education at the Art Center, and Michele Des Verney Redwine, President of SBAC, came up with the idea of running a Black Muse program for students.
The duo turned to art teachers at four high schools – Booker, Riverview, Sarasota, and North Port – and at Booker Middle School.
The exhibition, which shows the work of 20 students, can be viewed virtually until March 5th.
Des Verney Redwine said a key element of SBAC’s mission is to provide students with a creative way to express themselves.
“The exhibit recognizes the color students as a way of promoting understanding and appreciation of visual creativity,” she said. “It is important that the students know that what they are producing is important to the viewer as it stimulates creativity and stimulates the students’ thoughts.”
Des Verney Redwine said that as a mentor in schools, she noticed low representation from black students engaging in the arts, especially after sixth grade.
Goodwill said that both the adult and student programs are trying to overcome this barrier by allowing students to see artwork by color artists and know that it is a viable career choice.
The student Kenya Taylor from Sarasota High addresses stereotypes and emphasizes the beauty of being black in her piece “Skin Deep”.
“It’s only in the contemporary art movement that you will see someone of African descent,” said Goodwill. “It’s disheartening when you don’t see your face in the story and then you think, ‘Why should I chase it? ‘We’re trying to change that feeling. “
Students could create their pieces in any medium. The exhibition features drawings, paintings, photographs, ceramics, mixed media collages, and more.
All students had to write about the purpose or meaning of their artwork because organizers wanted them to focus on their identity or heritage, Des Verney Redwine said.
Sarasota High School student Aimee Cazaubon submitted a piece titled “Fence,” a photo of sunlight shining through a chain link fence. In her narration, Cazaubon said the play depicts how black people of all races were fenced in.
“We had to hide who we really are in order to please other people,” she wrote. “We have come under a barrier that has kept us from our true potential in many areas. … But not anymore. We are and will continue to use our voices to stand together and make a difference. We’re going to tear down that fence and keep dampening the tracks to par. “
Des Verney Redwine said the narratives are important because they required critical thinking and self-identification.
Sarasota High student Aimee Cazaubon explores the fences that African Americans have left behind in her play “Fence”.
“They identify who they are, where they come from, what cultures they belong to and what they belong to, and how it all affects them,” she said. “It gives them a better sense of who they are on the broad spectrum of humanity.”
Goodwill said she hoped the program could shed light on an issue that is too often pushed aside.
“It’s a topic that people don’t like to focus on because it shows there is an imbalance and often people don’t want to emphasize the negatives,” Goodwill said. “But we have to bring things to light, support color artists and show them that they are not alone.”
In contrast to the adult exhibition Black Muse, the student exhibition was not rated. All students received a certificate and achievement letter, and their parents received a letter as well.
Des Verney Redwine hopes the letters encourage parents to engage with their children and their art.
Marcus Drummond, a student at North Port High, portrays a two-faced man to show how he hides his true feelings with a smile as if wearing a mask.
“We’re losing too many young people in our school system and that has nothing to do with color students. It has to do with students who are missing out on valuable exploration of the arts, ”she said. “We have to do better. We have talented young people and we have to encourage that. “
The organizers plan to continue the program in 2022 and hope for greater student participation.