Brave Spaces: Where You, Me and We Meet October 4- 31, 2018
Offit Gallery, Columbia University
In conjunction with the panel discussion Liberating Imagination Through Artistic Activism, the exhibition Brave Spaces: Where You, Me, and We Meet is opening in the Offit Gallery on October 4, 2018. The exhibition will include work by artists Ola Ronke Akinmowo, Walter Cruz, Pamela Koehler, Laura McGowan, and Gilbane Peck.
While the panel seeks to discuss how art, or more specifically education through art, plays a role in social, environmental, and political impactfulness, this exhibition takes a closer, more personal view of the same topic. Each artist uses a different approach and medium to either inspire change in the here and now, or commemorate those who have inspired change in the past.
Ola Ronke Akinmowo, artist, community activist and mother, is known for her project, The Free Black Woman’s Library, a mobile library that contains books from every genre, all written by women of color. Akinmowo is drawn to the space that libraries create, in which everyone, no matter their differences, are granted free access to books, resources, or simply a space to sit and spend the day. Currently in residence at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, she continues to explores themes of nature, color, beauty, change, magic, Black beings, and the Divine feminine through this new technique. Just as unique “impressions” are left behind after each print is made, the artist, through her work, hopes to leave impressions on her viewers, specifically challenging them to provoke, heal, nurture and inspire deep emotion, critical thinking and perspective shifting.
In addition to his practice as a painter, artist Walter Cruz has a series in which he has hand painted expressive and often poignant phrases onto the backs of jackets. Meant to inspire, advocate, and challenge when they are worn out in the world, they inevitably become conversation starters with strangers he meets on the street. In addition to his own jackets, Cruz has painted on the backs of jackets for friends and family members, starting a ripple effect that continues to be far-reaching. In the artist’s own words, “In a world that is constantly telling black and brown folks not to love themselves, my goal is to create work that inspires and informs those very people.”
The work featured by Pamela Koehler comes from a continuing series, focused on the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which in 1911 killed 146 workers. This tragic event was the catalyst for reforms not only in New York City, but across the country. Koehler strives to honor the individuals as well as the collective group, by soliciting friends, artists, and others to embroider a single name of someone who died in the fire. The pieces are as diverse as the women working in the factory at the time, reminding us that each person lost to the fire had their own hopes, struggles, and story to tell.
Artist Laura McGowan recently has set aside her own practice in favor of working with the Integrated Refugee & Immigration Services (IRIS). Through this partnership, McGowan teaches art classes to children of all ages, who have recently immigrated to the United States. This
summer, they focused on printmaking, learning a number of different techniques they used to make works of art that look at the environment around them.
Gilbane Peck is a sculptor, photographer, collage artist, street artist, and musician with a focus on creating sustainable, mixed-media works out of what other people have discarded or left behind. The works featured in this exhibition are constructed from found magazine and book clippings and/or the artist’s own photographs; discarded wood, frames or canvas; and “garbage” and miscellaneous debris from the streets of New York City. Peck’s work revolves around making art that will challenge the viewer to contemplate what we leave behind in this life and how we treat our environment along the way. He hopes to inspire others to incorporate sustainable values into their own lives.
We would like to thank all of those involved in the organization of this event, co-hosted by Columbia University’s Student Advocates for the Arts and New York University’s Advocates for Cultural Engagement (ACE), in partnership with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), Emerging Leaders of New York Arts, Friends of Japan, Global Citizen Club, Gottesman Libraries, National Art Education Association, NURTUREart, Peace Education Network (PEN), and Soul Haven Arts, and co-curated by Allison Peller and Briana Zimmerman.