‘A Celebration of Black Artist’ at Castellani

Review by Jy’Ahzhannae Taylor

Niagara University’s demographic is heavily populated with Caucasian students or students of European descent. But Niagara does its best to promote diversity and inclusion on campus and to ensure students can feel as though they are equal, even though their home for the next four years is a predominantly white institution. The campus does this through several different things, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, several social clubs, and different courses and electives that promote the backgrounds of different ethnicities and nationalities.

On Nov. 16, “A Celebration of Black Artist” was held in the Castellani Art Museum. Because Niagara is so big on diversity and inclusion, the campus must promote the values of different ethnicities or people of different backgrounds in such a way that it contributes well to the perspectives of others. The campus always finds ways to include or involve people of different backgrounds in a list of things.

This event alone is important for several different reasons. It’s hard for Black artists to get the recognition they deserve, and it’s even harder for them to get it on a predominantly white platform. Students, particularly students of color, can look for representation in these paintings – especially if they’ve been feeling out of place while being at Niagara.

The department of history and the pre-law and women’s studies programs joined to offer Black studies courses. The two departments saw a deeper meaning to these courses and wanted to make an impact outside of the classroom with the art exhibit being one followed by freedom seekers’ stories at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and a screening of the film “Madam Sara.”

Six pieces of art were presented at the “Celebration of Black Artist” exhibit, which all exemplified Black pride, rejection of colonialism, and the importance of family and what family means.

In the main gallery, the first photo that is presented is “The Family” by the artist William Y. Cooper. It is an oil painting that beautifies a Black household. The second painting is the “Black Panther” by William Hawkins. Traditionally, the black panther represents grace, protection and beauty, which are usually the key characteristics of a Black prideful person. Lastly, Faith Ringold has a painting named “Tar Beach,” which shows how magical and eventful it is to be Black – how Black people soar through the sky.

In the Knox Gallery, Romare Howard Bearden’s painting, “Jimmy Olson,” was presented, which shows just how chaotic life can be sometimes. Then, the artist shows the world how important and charismatic life is, and how we always need someone by our side in the painting “Family Life.”

Last, in the Knox exhibit, is “Skillet Study” by Alison Saar. This painting represents the brutality and hardships Blacks have faced on a hard surface, and yet, still standing and moving through life, this last painting represents faith.

Indeed, Niagara University is a predominantly white institution, but the campus ensures students have representation on campus; they make students feel like they belong. The measures of dedicating an exhibit to a race show that the words, diversity and inclusion are not just popular words on this campus, but words of action.

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