Arts & Culture

“Joy + Justice” builds community through art

CSREA annual exhibition emphasizes necessity of joy in social justice pursuits, daily life

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2018

The new exhibit at the Center for Race and Ethnicity in America, which will be up until Spring 2019, contains 38 pieces from 22 artists. This piece, “Self Portrait” is by Luanne Redeye, an artist currently based in New Mexico.

Last Thursday, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America hosted the opening of “Joy + Justice,” a new exhibit that celebrates the Center’s upcoming programs and events.

In a letter posted and distributed at the front of the exhibit, Tricia Rose, the director of CSREA, wrote that the exhibit was curated with artists whose works “capture the nuanced means by which joy is made just, and justice is fueled by the hope and possibility that joy represents.”

The theme of “Joy + Justice” resonated with Kaila Johnson ’19, a student assistant at CSREA. “I feel like it is really exhausting being a person of color and also just studying issues of social justice and doing work with social justice,” Johnson said, and added that CSREA holds that finding joy within battles for social justice, moments of oppression and in daily life is necessary for overall well-being. “We believe that you can get more work done in organizing, in studying (and) in existing if you do have that balance,” Johnson said.

The exhibit features 38 works of art created by 22 artists from around the world, some of whom are Brown alums.

Among the works, one wall in a back room of CSREA displays multiple renditions of hands.  Bursting with vibrant colors, John Viet-Triet Hoa Nguyen’s “Band Together” is a graphic representation of hands locked together in a powerful grip. “Never Let Me Go II,” by Nadja, an elegant black line drawing of two hands that reach up and cross in a tight grasp, is displayed next to “Band Together.” Other pieces include a series of black and white photographs by Pilar Vergara and colorful, abstract portraits by Luanne Redeye.

Stéphanie Larrieux, associate director of CSREA, said that she appreciates the “way that (the pieces) all speak to each other and really … carry the theme forward.” Larrieux curated the exhibit with Caitlin Scott, outreach coordinator and executive assistant for CSREA, and Alex Parker-Guerrero GS, a CSREA curatorial fellow. “Even the media that is represented is rather diverse, so we really tried to curate works that spoke to that inclusivity,” Larrieux said.

Larrieux added that the exhibit fits with the Center’s overall belief that art has the ability to both move and challenge people. “Art is definitely a way in which people can engage with new ideas,” she said.

Johnson emphasized that CSREA does not only have speaker events and lectures but also tries to build a community within the undergraduate population. “Most events have something to do with issues of oppression, race and ethnicity,” she said. “But we want to set the groundwork this year to have an underlying emphasis on community-building, support and joy within those spaces of study.”

In the exhibition letter, Rose defined the exhibition’s joy as “a choice to love in spite of hate; to be hopeful in the face of hopelessness; to connect with each other when walls and wars force us apart.” 

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