Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Student art exhibit R.O.O.T.S creates space for Black artists on campus

Alexa Zimmermann

A collection of artwork representing culture, diversity and self-expression lined the halls of the Gordon White Building on Feb. 3. 

The UT Black Student Alliance’s Freshman Action Team partnered with the UT Black Studies Collective to premiere “Rising Out of the Shadows (R.O.O.T.S),” an art exhibit that features Black students’ works. The event, in addition to displaying student work, included student-led tours of existing collections and a lecture from artist and professor Micheal Ray Charles about liberation through art. 

Christianna McAfee, Freshman Action Team co-chair, said R.O.O.T.S creates a space on campus that celebrates different cultures, and she hopes it continues annually in the future.

“The DEI (ban) did not take away all of the cultural spaces,” McAfee said. “The Gordon White Building is a home for Latinx and Black Studies majors who are not all Black and Latinx people.” 

The exhibit welcomed pieces ranging from sculptures and paintings to poetry and dance. Nia Nash, arts and entertainment technologies freshman, displayed a digital portrait of a young girl whose hands and face were decorated with stickers as she clutched a cross in prayer. She said the piece connected her to her roots. 

“The little girl was supposed to represent me and some of the things that contributed to who I am today,” Nash said. “I showcase that with the cross that represents Christianity, and the stickers have video game characters (which) represent my major.”

Damien Broxton, Freshman Action Team community engagement and membership chair, said he hopes to increase exposure of Black art and culture, noting Black artists’ lack of representation in museums. 

“There are a bunch of pieces in there that are inspired from the Black hair culture,” Broxton said. “There’s a whole room on the first floor, and the artist had all the art mediated after waves, which is a popular texture in Black culture. That was the first time I’ve ever seen that represented in an art piece. That can really bridge the creativity of expression for someone who looks like this and has not seen themselves represented in a gallery of that size.” 

Broxton said learning about and analyzing pieces proved vital to accurately presenting the works.

“With the wave artist, there was a key aspect with learning his art,” Broxton said. “He used flags from ships to represent communication in his photos. That also translates into the transatlantic slave trade… But these flags, they’re only interpreted by ship readers, so he wanted the people that are looking at this art to do that research and to go and make that extra stretch and yearn to get that information.”

Inspired by the lecture professor Charles gave, Broxton said he aims to continue creating a space for creative expression within the Black community. 

“Art is very deep in Black culture,” Broxton said. “We talked about how that is a manifestation everyday for us, and we need to be yearning to fulfill those spaces.”

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