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INSPIRED BY

Faces of America LOCAL STUDENT TAKES ON DIVERSITY THROUGH DIGITAL ART FOR HER BCD CAPSTONE PROJECT.

LIVI GRAY IS A 14-YEAR-OLD RECENT GRADU-

her smiling subjects, who range in ethnicity and age,

ATE FROM BOULDER COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL

with strokes of detail that bring their personas to life.

WHERE SHE HAS BEEN A STUDENT SINCE PRE-

“I want people to realize that they’re also American

SCHOOL. Each year, graduating students conduct

citizens, and they’re also human,” Gray emphasizes.

a year-long research project requiring an immersive

Her resounding message is one of inclusivity:

dive into a specific field of study of their choice, fol-

We all belong.

lowed by a community-service component. Gray’s capstone project titled, “Faces of America,” features a

LIVI GRAY’S ARTIST STATEMENT:

series of digitally crafted portraits of a diverse range of

We all use stereotypes, all the time,

Americans from Denver and across the United States.

without knowing it.

“I wanted to interlace art with a topic that

We have met the enemy of equality,

meant a lot to me, and I decided the most mean-

and the enemy is us.

ingful was about the one that had to do with

—Annie Murphy Paul, 1998

people like me,” Gray shares. Born in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2007, Gray became an American citizen upon her adoption

For many Americans of color, it is common to be asked by acquaintances and strangers:

by American parents and has occasionally faced

“Where are you from?” (Answer: U.S. city, state)

adversity herself. Through art and study, she chose

“No, where are you really from?”

to explore the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype,

The Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype operates

addressing the prejudices and unconscious biases

when naturalized and native-born citizens (including

often directed towards people of color. Gray notes

families who have lived in the country for genera-

her concerns with this inequality, especially when

tions) are perceived as foreign because they belong

people are regarded as not true Americans simply

to minority groups. There are many negative effects

because of their appearance.

on identity and social adjustment when people of

“They deserve to be treated the same as a privileged white person,” Gray says. “They don’t deserve anything less because of their racial background or the color of their skin or the religious beliefs they hold.”

color do not feel as if they belong or that they do not fit the definition of what it means to be American. The goal of this capstone project is to break the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype through art,

Along with the close mentorship of her teachers

education and personal narratives. I have drawn

and advisors, Lindsay Droter, Gwynn Reback, and

portraits of a diverse group of Americans of color,

Londa Bevins, Gray referenced YouTube tutorials to

and they have shared their heritage stories in their

help her create these portraits—capturing the spirit of

own words. We all belong.

ARTICLE LIVIA HOOSON

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Boulder Lifestyle | August 2020

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