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Springfield Museum of Art to host community conversations on race

The surrealist painting includes a large image of a Black man wearing a shirt with a distorted American flag. He is surrounded by clouds and red, blue, black and yellow circles. Next to him is a smaller image of police lined up with riot shields. At the bottom of the painting is a smaller image of a Black man lying on the ground with what appears to be blood around him, reminiscent of images of Michael Brown after he was shot and killed by police in 2014.
Springfield Museum of Art
"I Just Want Justice" by Jimi Jones is one of the pieces currently on display at the Springfield Museum of Art.

The first event this Saturday will be moderated by the curator of the museum's current exhibit BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER II.

On display at the Springfield Museum of Art is a new exhibit called BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER II. Beginning this Saturday, the museum is hosting community conversations about race inspired by the art in the exhibit.

Dayton artist Willis Bing Davis, the curator for the exhibit, chose the theme of Black life as subject matter because he knew it would give artists a wide latitude.

“We said, you can take any aspect of the Black experience, the joy, the sorrow, the happiness, the positive events, the negative events, and then address it in your own way, in your own style,” he said.

Davis curated an earlier iteration of the exhibit in 2016. This year’s BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER II was first displayed in February at the EbonNia Gallery in Dayton. The larger gallery space at the Springfield Museum of Art allows for about twice as many pieces to be included. The artists come from all over the Miami Valley, including Dayton, Springfield, Cincinnati and Oxford, as well as other parts of the state.

A paper collage of a Black woman with orange hair decorated with daisies. She is wearing a green checkered face mask that says Black Lives Matter.
Springfield Museum of Art
Springfield Museum of Art
This paper collage is part of Yvette Walker-Dalton's "The Celebration of American Women A-Z" and is currently on display at the Springfield Museum of Art.

Davis and museum staff have collaborated in creating a series of monthly conversations moderated by artists and community leaders. Topics will include race as social construct, community building and bias. During the discussions, moderators will make use of an online resource, Talking About Race, from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“We realized that part of what we would want to do with BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER II would be to try to create places where people can think and talk about this national issue of race and what we're doing about it,” said museum educator Amy Korpieski. “As a museum, we know that artwork makes it a lot easier to talk about things that can sometimes be hard to talk about.”

Davis stated the exhibit helps to address the fact that museums have often been elite, white spaces. This is even the subject of some of the artwork in the exhibit, he said.

“Unfortunately, many of the museums historically have had that very narrow kind of perception of their purpose and function. And not only a narrow perception, but also operate almost out of what we would call a Eurocentric perspective,” he said. “For me, I've always operated from the standpoint that African American art and culture can be the basis of educational and social reform and can certainly add to the dialogue and discussion.”

Davis will moderate the first discussion, focused on bias, with Ryan Wynett of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Springfield Museum of Art, as well as virtually on Zoom.

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.