By Vanessa Moss
This year the Wick chose the theme “Illuminating Experiences and Igniting Change.” On October 6, they opened the first gallery of student artwork to be held in their house in conjunction with the event. The Women’s Center started hosting Date Night in the fall of 2014 as a new avenue for enlightened conversation with students on campus and their dates for the evening.
Featuring photographs, mixed-media pieces, and even acrylic paintings on shards of metamorphic rock, the gallery opening was an immense success. Six students—Katie Sutton (C’18), Aidan Bliss (C’18), David Terrell (C’17), Mary Perez (C’17), Maren Johnson (C’17), and Alena Kochinski (C’18)—submitted their work, and the Women’s Center residents hope for an even larger turnout during their next gallery opening.
Pradip Malde, professor of Art and Art History, taught three of the students whose work is displayed. He commented that gallery openings can frequently be distant and cold: “There’s something about putting your work on a blank wall that separates the piece itself from the humanity of the artist and the onlooker.”
The Women’s Center challenged this norm. The physical environment of their house was conducive to mingling and chatting while attendees looked closely at the work on display. The students’ photographs and paintings created a sense of community and closed the separation between their art’s message and the viewer.
“It takes a lot of courage to present your work and sit and see people’s responses,” said Perez, “but the Wick is a safe space in so many ways, it feels like a naturally safe place for people to share their creative work.”
As a gallery opening, Date Night gave artists the opportunity to test run artistic concepts in an inclusive and noncritical setting. Perez accompanied her photography with her poetry, titled Reflexiones || Reflections, her first experimentation in exposing both her artistic passions simultaneously. Capturing beauty in race, movement, callousness, and strength, Perez’s poetry complemented her black and white silver gelatin photographs frictionlessly.
Terrell described his exhibited photograph and narrative as a “pilot run,” the first in a series of portraits that he wishes to create. Entitled Here at Sewanee: The Black Man’s Story, he wants to have the university “hear the undergraduate black man’s story. How has Sewanee treated them? How has the world treated them?” Featuring Malik Hodge (C’20) as his first photographed and interviewed subject, Terrell asked questions from “How have you enjoyed your time here at Sewanee thus far?” to “What experience of racism still lingers with you today?”
Terrell explained that there is a lack of network for men of color on the Sewanee campus, and he hopes that his portraits will cause the black men of Sewanee to look at and understand each other. Two days before Date Night, the Wick hosted “What I Wish I Knew,” where freshmen women on campus listened to advice from a panel of upperclass women. There was an extensive conversation about what it is like to be a woman of color on campus. There are no similar events for men of color, and few group conversations connect the greater black male community of Sewanee.
Date Night was vibrant and bustling, full of professors and students eager for cheese plates and supporting the artistic community of Sewanee. The artwork will be displayed in the Wick until their next gallery opening (to be announced), and all are welcome to go view or revisit the paintings, photographs, narratives, and poetry of fellow students.