The #ExhibitChange art project, a collaboration of eight area artists who are alumni of the Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD), came together when several of the former art students noticed that their alma mater wasn’t saying much about the Black Lives Matter protests that exploded across the country in June — even though the school is located right on Market Street, the heart of the protest in Wilmington on the night of May 30, where several businesses were damages during the unrest.
“On June 3, I woke up early in the morning, I checked the news, I saw that DCAD had not posted anything on Facebook about the protests,” said Molly Hartman, who attended DCAD in 2016. “Windows had gotten broken along Market Street, and I was like, ‘DCAD, you’re a community of art students, make art about this movement.” (The school did post a statement condemning racism on Instagram on June 2, as well as on Facebook later on June 3 after Hartman reached out, she said.)
Kyndia Tertulien, who just graduated in May, also noticed that there didn’t seem to be anything substantive planned.
“I’ve always thought in my head, ‘What is our school doing about the crisis?’ With all that’s going on, all I saw was summer camp programs,” she said.
As Hartman logged into Instagram that morning, the first thing she saw was an illustration related to Black Lives Matter by fellow DCAD alum Chris Bailey. “And it just clicked,” she said. “Why isn’t DCAD doing an art show?”
Hartman and Bailey agreed they should contact the school about supporting the movement in some way. They told Technical.ly they approached the school with the idea of a Black Lives Matter DCAD exhibition, and leadership was receptive, but after a few emails, frustration set in as the alumni began to feel like they’d ultimately be the ones doing the work to make the show happen.
When they found out that the DCAD gallery coordinator assigned to help them would be leaving their position before the first planned exhibit, #ExhibitChange became more of its own organization that would be focused on fostering change in the community through the arts.
“We agreed on the name #ExhibitChange as a sort of counter protest to just giving ‘thoughts and prayers,'” said Hartman. “We figured out, while organizing [with] one another, that we teach one another.”
The project wasn’t just about the national push for ending police brutality. It was about schools, too, and how they play a part in fostering — or hindering — change. On Instagram, students of color from private, public and vo-tech students (including in Delaware) were speaking out about experiencing racism in their schools, and it was beginning to open people’s eyes to the reality of everyday racism.
Artists — who don’t have to be alumni of DCAD or any other school to include local artists who were not able to attend post-secondary school — submit artwork via a form that encourages them to share an experience with racial discrimination in an education setting.
“We want to change what’s going on within our schools,” said Tertulien, a Philadelphian whose own experience as a Black student at DCAD was, at times, challenging. “It’s interesting because you go there and they really claim diversity but you don’t really feel like it’s diversity.”
Olivia Kwiatkowski, who attended DCAD in 2017, became the show’s website designer after her boyfriend, fellow alum Charles Mazzeo, saw a post about it on social media and encouraged her to volunteer her design skills. Soon, she was on the team of organizers, along with Mazzeo, Hartman, Bailey, Tertulien, JaQuanne LeRoy Daniels, Bonaia Rosado and Peter O’Hara.
“I would like #ExhibitChange to encourage others to hold accountable their schools, businesses, and other institutions in their own unique way,” said Kwiatkowski. “We are a small group of artists from a small college in a small state, and are joining our skills and passions to be a single powerful voice.”
One of the exhibition’s goals is to generate donations for local nonprofits, and organizers say one of the causes they’re focusing on is decreasing the Black infant and maternal mortality rates. Ultimately, they hope to encourage people to do more than donate by volunteering for community projects and taking action.
#ExhibitChange will be a virtual exhibition with the possibility for a brick-and-mortar exhibition of selected pieces down the line. Submissions will be accepted in three rounds for three separate launches this fall. Any media, including photo and video, may be submitted. Artists from anywhere in the area, including Southeastern Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland, are welcome to submit.
Dates to keep in mind:
- Submissions due on Aug. 28 for the Sept. 4 launch
- Submissions due on Sept. 25 for the Oct. 2 launch
- Submissions due on Oct. 30 for the Nov. 11 launch