Exploring racial, social issues with art

A new exhibit asked local artists to tackle the issue of police brutality.

West Philadelphia resident Ali Roseberry-Polier viewed the “OUTCRY!” art exhibition. | Evan Easterling TTN
West Philadelphia resident Ali Roseberry-Polier viewed the “OUTCRY!” art exhibition. | Evan Easterling TTN

On a length of brown construction paper spanning a table, eight lines scribbled in Sharpie questioned progress throughout history.

“50 years ago / I protested for / The same things – / For black lives – / For equal rights – / For pride & power. / Why are we doing it again? / Didn’t anyone hear us?”

This piece is just one of the elements in the “OUTCRY!” exhibit at the Christ Church Meetinghouse at 20 N. American St.

In the open room of old brick walls and creaky floors, several local artists expressed their frustration with the issues of police brutality through various mediums. The exhibit, produced by the African American Museum in Philadelphia and First Person Arts, featured 25 different pieces of art, ranging from woodwork to collage, created by artists like Raphael Tiberino, Michael Wiley and Leroy Johnson.

Brittany Webb, a curatorial and research assistant at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, said choosing a favorite medium in the show was difficult, but she enjoyed the exhibit’s photography pieces of protest and portraiture.

“I’m really moved by faces of people in the community,” Webb said. “I think it’s really important for people to see themselves reflected in this kind of visual imagery. These conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and about police brutality don’t often get the nuances of the political moment and community responses and photography for me is all really beautiful.”

Senior printmaking major Jademan Baker was one of the artists featured in this exhibit. She used a thermofax technique to create a wearable print to illustrate the stares she has faced because of her race.

“This was pretty much about my experience with racism at a previous institution that I was at and how I would get these stares from other students,” Baker said. “My idea was to give this ‘stare’ a physicality like, ‘How does it feel [to experience racism] physically, mentally,’ and the toll that this stare is having in my life, which was really strange because I have never felt anything like that before.”

“It kind of seems it may be pessimistic, but not from my point of view,” she added. “It’s optimistic and encouraging people to share their experiences about racism if they have ever gone through something like that.”

Another painting featured in “OUTCRY!” was Brian Gaither’s “Accountability.” The Penn State student’s monochromatic piece depicted two officers arresting a fellow police officer.

“What I wanted to convey was that police need to be held accountable for brutality in African American communities,” Gaither said. “The only way that they can be held accountable is that the law enforcement institutions that employ these officers must hold them accountable when they make decisions that are unethical.”

Gaither wanted to make his painting a positive one, looking to the future to end police brutality.

“I was trying to close the dilemma for police officer brutality,” he said.

The exhibit featured other local artists and photographers including American Queen TJD, Marco Hill and Tyler alumna Jennifer Young.

Baker believes conversations about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement need to be had in Philadelphia and across the country.

“Racism still exists,” she said.

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at gillian.mcgoldrick@temple.edu.

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