State College NAACP hosts art exhibition, award ceremony for Juneteenth

State College’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People partnered with Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture to host an art exhibition and award ceremony for Juneteenth on Friday evening.

The exhibition, which took place at the Woskob Family Gallery downtown, was the first event of the weekend organized by the NAACP dedicated to celebrating Juneteenth, which commemorates the legal end of slavery in the United States.

The theme of the art display was “Reflections of Black Experiences: Voices of Freedom Through the Ages.”

The exhibition featured art by elementary, middle and highschool students, as well as works by local and international artists.

This was the first “annual juried exhibition” in State College, according to Grace Hampton, and the first time an art display presented for this holiday has “really involved the community.”

Juneteenth Art Gallery at Penn State Downtown Theatre Center_Iyunade Soetan Recognized

Second grade student Iyunade Soetan is recognized with applause and cheers from the crowd for wining first place in the kindergarten-second grade contest with her work, “My Flag” during the Juneteenth art gallery at Penn State’s Downtown Theatre Center on Friday, June 17, 2022. The Gallery and art show was open to all community members in the State College area and featured pieces from elementary, middle, and high school as a way to connect with young artists. 

Hampton, a professor emerita of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State and the curator of the exhibition, said this event is “more of a celebration than an art exhibition for her.”

“[The event is] based upon the philosophy that in African traditional culture the arts are an intrical part of the daily lives of people,” Hampton said. “They don’t separate it.”

Edgar Farmer, a Penn State professor emeritus of education, said it is important to him that people seeing art realize that “they can [also] do those things.”

“Creativity and art brings together groups of people,” Farmer said.

Farmer showcased his wood carving works at the exhibition and said his journey with this craft began when he was a Boy Scout pursuing a woodcarving merit badge.

“Many of my woodcarving images were inspired by my travels to Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe,” Farmer said.

Juneteenth Art Gallery at Penn State Downtown Theatre Center_Edgar Farmer Sr. Portrait

Professor Edgar Farmer Sr. stands alongside his wood carvings displayed for visitors to view at the Juneteenth art gallery at Penn State’s Downtown Theatre Center on Friday, June 17, 2022. The Gallery and art show was open to all community members in the State College area and featured pieces from elementary, middle, and high school as a way to connect with young artists. 

During the exhibition, music from local high school saxophonist Lake Black and his band was featured.

“Jazz is culturally significant Black music, so we thought it would be a good thing to have within the event,” Black said.

Black also said he was really surprised there was so much engagement between the band and the people walking through the gallery.

“We did a set of all Black music to really try to play into the Juneteenth theme and showcase the holiday and also showcase the importance of the history behind the music,” Black said.

Juneteenth Art Gallery at Penn State Downtown Theatre Center_Lake Black Trio

Members of The Lake Black Trip perform jazz music in the background of the Juneteenth art gallery at Penn State’s Downtown Theatre Center on Friday, June 17, 2022. The Gallery and art show was open to all community members in the State College area and featured pieces from elementary, middle, and high school as a way to connect with young artists. 

State College mayor Ezra Nanes also attended the event and said it was “really wonderful to celebrate Juneteenth with the community.”

“I wanted to come out and celebrate Black and African-American arts and culture and just really appreciate the joys and the talents that everybody is bringing to our community,” Nanes said.

Juneteenth Art Gallery at Penn State Downtown Theatre Center_Ezra Nanes

State College Mayor Ezra Nanes greets families and visitors to the the Juneteenth art gallery at Penn State’s Downtown Theatre Center on Friday, June 17, 2022. The Gallery and art show was open to all community members in the State College area and featured pieces from elementary, middle, and high school as a way to connect with young artists. 

An award ceremony took place at the closing of the exhibition. A total of $800 in prizes were allocated for the awards.

The participants were awarded in multiple age categories and everyone whose work was displayed at the exhibition received an honorable mention that included a certificate and a letter indicating the fact of participation.

In the kindergarten to second grade section, Iyuna de Soetan won with “My Flag.” In the third to fifth grade section, Aiden Olawoyin took first place with “Aiden’s Heart.” Among the sixth to eighth graders, Neve Johnson brought home the first place prize with “Self Portrait.”

Augustus Nicholas was the high school champion of the competition, taking first place with “All Wars are Civil Wars.” And Olaniyi Fakeye was crowned the adult winner for his “Traditional Nigerian Artist.”

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