Voices: Partnered in Action Against Racism
Eberhard Wall Gallery, L.V. Eberhard Center, GVSU Pew Campus
August 17, 2020 - October 23, 2020
On May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a 46 year old black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The next day, and throughout the following weeks, protests erupted across the United States and around the world, including here in West Michigan. The sheer volume and intensity of these protests may be an unprecedented moment in the fight against systemic racism, but the fight itself is not new. Inequality is woven into the fabric of this country and unraveling the threads of race-based discrimination, bias, and violence is a monumental task.
Drawn from the permanent collection of art at Grand Valley State University, this exhibition seeks to elevate the voices and experiences of Black artists, activists, and allies. It features a wide range of artwork and artists, paired with statements that contextualize the work within this moment of massive social change. The voices of Black artists expressing their daily struggles and range of approaches to addressing systemic racism are included next to responses by GV faculty who embed conversations about race, identity, and oppression into their curriculum.
In the face of institutional racism, the GVSU Art Gallery supports equality for all and stands with those who fight for it. The simple act of looking, listening, and considering the perspectives of others is one that can develop into deep, meaningful change. We recognize that the fight for equality continues, and it is our hope that these works of art and voices can stimulate understanding and contribute to this important cause.
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Henry A. Brown is a collage artist who lives and works in Grand Rapids, MI. You’ll often find four elements, sometimes hidden, in Brown’s collages; water, fish, money, and a clock. Each object holds particular significance to the artist. He explains, “time and money… it’s what we think about all the time. We always think we have the time to fix things but we don’t. We think we can go around throwing money at it [the problem] to fix it but we can’t. And what good’s money and time if you don’t have what nourishes… water and fish?”
Jasmine Bruce is a Michigan-based visual artist. She graduated from GVSU with a BFA in Illustration in 2018. In the summer of 2020, Bruce completed multiple murals in the city of Grand Rapids including the mural of Harriet Woods Hill, the first African American Woman to serve as an officer in the Grand Rapids Police Department, part of the Women’s Way public art initiative. The mural is located in the alley off Louis St. NW at the northwest corner of GRPD headquarters.
Melissa Campbell lives and works in Raleigh, NC. She graduated from GVSU with a BA in Art & Design in 2004. In the summer of 2020, Campbell began an initiative to place artwork in K-12 classrooms. She explains, "I am a firm believer that exposure to Black art helps create well-rounded, well-prepared learners and leaders. So I’m donating prints of my artwork to teachers in the hope that one day it can bridge the gap between these conversations and the healing necessary to create a peaceful coexistence for everyone."
Brett Colley earned his MFA in Printmaking from the University of Iowa in 1994. Colley is now an Associate Professor at GVSU and teaches a variety of courses including Drawing, Printmaking, and Senior Seminar. His recent writing and studio work assumes a wide, critical perspective on industrialized animal agriculture and examines the tragedies of racism, sexism, ableism and ecocide that intersect with our exploitation of other species.
Douglas R. Gilbert, Ivanhoe Donaldson (for LOOK Magazine) (detail), photographic print, 1965, 2018.48.2023
Douglas Gilbert made a career as a professional photographer for more than 60 years. When Gilbert was twenty-one, he joined the staff of Look magazine in New York as the second youngest photojournalist in the magazines history. A few years later, he left Look to work as an artist and has since had his work published in countless national and international publications such as LIFE, The Saturday Evening Post and Glamour. His complete body of work is archived in the GVSU Art Gallery permanent collection. He currently lives with his wife in Grand Haven, MI.
Markeyna Jefferson, Taken for Granted: The Supremacy of God (detail), archival inkjet print, 2018, 2018.82.1
Markeyna Jefferson graduated from GVSU with a BS in photography in 2018. Jefferson explains, "as a Black female photographer with a passion for social justice, I try my best to use my platform to display the African American community in a positive light. I photograph portraits that convey how Black individuals turn their pain caused by institutionalized racism into inner beauty, confidence, and success."
Jon Onye Lockard taught life drawing, portrait painting, and the art and culture of African Americans for over forty years at the University of Michigan and at Washtenaw Community College. Lockard was a beloved member of both institutions and also had a distinguished career as a portrait painter and leader in the African American community.
Jon McDonald is an American painter and educator living in Grand Rapids, MI. Jon holds both a Bachelors and a Masters degree in fine art from San Francisco Art Institute. Read more about McDonald's life and work in this 2011 profile.
Rufus Snoddy moved to Northern Michigan over a decade ago from Los Angeles, California. Snoddy's work reflects a concert of approaches, materials, and dichotomy, striving for seamless shifting from one to the other. "It is sculpture....it's painting....it is both." More accurately he calls his work Construction Paintings. With a graduate degree focusing on sculpture, Snoddy has spent many years pursuing the act of collecting sundry materials, construction and painting methods.
This exhibition features the voices of Black artists responding to systemic racism and the social unrest of the Summer of 2020, along side faculty allies who address systemic racism and inequality in their classrooms. This exhibition engages themes related to social justice, education, and African American culture. Check out the following GVSU Library books and articles to learn more about these key themes or use the Libraries Catalog to find more information.
- (electronic) How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- (electronic) I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
- (print) Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi
- (electronic) The Palgrave Handbook of Race and the Arts in Education, editors; Amelia M. Kraehe, Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández, B. Stephen Carpenter II
- (electronic) Microaggressions and Modern Racism: Endurance and Evolution, Chapter 4: Microaggressions, Macroaggressions, and Modern Racism in Higher Education , by Charisse C. Levchak
- (electronic) Teaching Race: How to Help Students Unmask and Challenge Racism, by Stephen D. Brookfield
Us: Blackness, Belonging, Aesthetic Life, by Stephen
(print) The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison, with a foreword by Ta-Nehisi Coates
(print) Stick to the Skin: African American and Black British Art, 1965-2015, by Celeste-Marie Bernier
- Our Actions for Racial Equity - a letter from GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella
- Anti-Racism at GVSU - a collection of literature, audio and video resources for your anti-racist tool kit
- GVSU Division of Inclusion & Equity - Through collaboration, consultation, and leadership with students, faculty, staff, administrators and community partners, the Division of Inclusion and Equity advances GVSU’s social justice framework for equity and inclusion.
- Black Student Support at GVSU - The University Counseling Center has created a website to provide mental health resources specific to Black Students in response to the ongoing racial violence and trauma.
- From the New York Times Style Magazine, Nine Black Artists and Cultural Leaders on Seeing and Being Seen
- From Architectural Digest, Young Black Artists Speak About the Role of Art in This Moment
- Black Art in America
- Micro Syllabus 1: How Does Racial Bias Function in the Mind of the White Artist? by AK Garski
More from the GVSU Art Gallery & Permanent Collection
Additional Artworks from the GVSU Art Collection Related to Artists of Color & Using Art in the Classroom
Use Art in the Classroom
August 17, 2020 - October 23, 2020
L.V. Eberhard Center
301 W Fulton St
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Gallery viewing is based on building hours
For special accommodation, please call:
For exhibition details and media inquires, please email:
Joel Zwart, Curator of Exhibitions
For learning and engagement opportunities, please email: