University at Buffalo graduate fine arts student Ashley Powell will be speaking at the Burchfield Penney on Socio-Political Activist Art and Critical Race Theory. Powell struck a nerve with the university and the public when she hung highly controversial ‘White Only’ and ‘Black Only’ signs in order to draw attention to the growing systemic issues of racial divide.
In a nation that has been making little progress when it comes to issues of race, Powell’s message at the University at Buffalo was not only provocative, it was timely as it relates to local and national racial stances. The message calls out the disparity among blacks and whites, white privileges, and an overall lack of conversation that results in a lack of change.
Powell’s delivery of the controversial message will continue to ripple further and further away, as a message such as this has no set timeline or physical boundaries. According to the New York Times, “The signs shocked students and jolted the university at a time when discussions about race and race relations have been prominent in the news.”
It is a delusion to believe that we can change society without first changing ourselves.
“This piece was created to expose white privilege. Our society still actively maintains racist structures that benefit one group of people, and oppress another. This project makes forceful what has been easy for you to ignore,” said Powell. “It is a delusion to believe that we can change society without first changing ourselves.”
Powell’s experimental and guerrilla art project titled Our Compliance set a tone for further discussions that are being held today. On Friday, April 8, 7:30 pm, Powell will once again enter into a discussion regarding her provoking tactics, and the resulting frenzy that ensued, both on campus and off campus. To this day, her project brings up the ideologies of freedom of speech, and the ever-looming suppressive tactics that tend to hide behind the belief that public order trumps radical behavior (even when conducted under the auspices of art).
Talk with special guest Ashley Powell | The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State | Friday, April 8, 2016 | 7:30 pm | The event is free and open to the public | An open discussion will follow with expert panelists in intellectual and critical art practice, visual studies and sociology including Professor Millie Chen – University at Buffalo, Intermedia, Department of Art; Professor John Jennings – University at Buffalo, Graphic Design, Department of Art; and Professor Ron R. Stewart, Ph.D. – SUNY Buffalo State, Department of Sociology. The panel discussion will be moderated by local artist Gary L. Wolfe.
Lead image: NY Public Library Archives