All the Art, Summer 2016

Page 11


In early summer of 2015, Dance St. Louis executive director, Michael Uthoff, asked Freida L Wheaton to curate a visual arts exhibition to accompany New Dance Horizons IV: A Celebration inspired by St. Louis’ Legendary Black Artists at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Wheaton jumped at the opportunity.

Thurman, Annetta Vickers-Bentil, Joy Lalita Wade, and Darryl White. Using paper, canvas, and sculpture, these artists created 27 large-scale works that emulate resilience and defiance, speaking both to pain experienced and the strength to carry on and build a better future.

Dance St. Louis’s program New Dance Horizons pairs nationally renowned choreographers with local professional dance companies to create unique world premieres. This year’s choreographers Bebe Miller, Dianne McIntyre, and Robert Moses were tasked with celebrating local legacies such as Maya Angelou and Miles Davis. The performances both celebrated the rich history of St. Louis African American culture and addressed contemporary social justice issues that the killing of Michael Brown brought to the surface locally, nationally, and globally.

Something Wheaton didn’t anticipate from the outset of this collaboration was that this exhibit would live on after the two-day show at the Touhill. The artists involved put a tremendous amount of thought and time towards creating their statements and for these pieces to be seen by the public for two short days felt like a missed opportunity. It was only natural for Wheaton to move the exhibit to the Vaughn Cultural Center, where Wheaton is the director and curator.

As she began to formulate the exhibit, Wheaton knew that scale was going to be an important factor. “…The space [at the Touhill] is so voluminous. So I started thinking about artists who I have a great amount of confidence in who could do work on a large scale and who could also translate the theme of social justice into great artwork.” The exhibition that materialized, Visualizing Life: Social Justice in Real Time, brought together the work of 16 local artists: Howard Berry, Jenna Bauer, Cbabi Bayoc, Sami Bentil, Stajah Curry, Lenard Hinds, Daniel Jefferson, Gundia Lock’Clay, Is’Mima Nebt’Kata, P31 The Artist, Thomas Sleet, Krystal Sutton, Solomon

Howard Barry, Forget Me Not (photo credit: Adelia Parker)

And it’s not just Wheaton who is committed to extending the public’s access to these works of art. People are coming to her and asking her to bring the exhibit to their communities. The Jacoby Arts Center of Alton, Illinois has invited Wheaton to include a selection of these works in an upcoming exhibit Social Justice: Both Sides of the River. The show will also feature a selection of works from Christine Ilewskis’ Faces not Forgotten project, as well as some pieces from Illinois-based artists. Social Justice: Both Sides of the River will be on view at the Jacoby from July 1 – August 6, 2016.

Joy L. Wade, The Bullet, (photo credit: Adelia Parker) IN REVIEW

It’s clear that the greater St. Louis community is thirsty for art that extends and elevates the social justice conversations that erupted in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. As the Visualizing Life: Social Justice in Real Time body of work moves from venue to venue, the exhibit shifts depending on the physical space of each venue and the desires and needs of the hosting communities. Art can be site-specific and in many cases can speak to broader themes that span across time and space. This work is both. While this exhibit is sure to continue to engage communities in much needed conversations about racism and resiliency, about privilege and power, about pain and healing, it has the potential to do much more. Perhaps as this exhibit moves from venue to venue, across geographical divides, the artwork will begin to build bridges.

-Aaron McMullin


Howard Barry, From the Ashes (photo credit: Adelia Parker) SUMMER 2016 ALLTHEARTSTL.COM 08



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