‘People Find Connection, Joy Here’: Crocker Art Museum Reopens To Public, Showcases More Diverse Artists

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The Crocker Art Museum is framing its reopening around a new exhibit showcasing a more diverse group of artists.

On Thursday, the museum reopened to the general public for the first time in more than a year.

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“I’ve moved into the neighborhood now and I’m excited I can walk here,” said 90-year-old Gloria Powell.

Powell was one of the first through the doors Thursday as Sacramentans showed up to offer their support.

“I wanted to see the museum open and support it,” said Daniel Ronan. “I’ve been wanting to come here for months.”

With 25% capacity rules, strict sanitization measures and timed tickets, the Crocker is presenting more inclusive exhibits featuring African American artists.

“The art really means so much to so many people: People find connection, joy here. Meaning,” said Maria Segoviano, a museum spokesperson.

Segoviano gave some insight into what visitors can see when they are at the Crocker.

READ MORE: Yuba County Leaders Bring Forward Resolution Supporting Second Amendment To Uphold Gun Rights

“We have one exhibition called Legends From Los Angeles which features the work of Betye, Lezley and Alisson Saar, and that’s a mother and two daughters. Their work focuses on themes like hope, grief, faith, family and joy,” said Segoviano. “We also have Spirit Lines which is the works of Helen Hardin. She is considered a trailblazer in the Native American community.”

And then there is the porcelain work of Elsa Rady.

“I love them,” said Segoviano.

Seeing the images in person brings a sense of serenity and curiosity.

“The artist, who they are and where they come from, and how they came to do this kind of work,” said Powell.

Additionally, free admission is being offered for Welcome Back Sundays, which will occur every Sunday through May 31.

“We want the community to find artwork that reflects themselves their lived experiences and their backgrounds,” said Segoviano.

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Physical distancing was not an issue in the 150,000-square-foot space.

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‘If You Love Us, Pay Us!’: Sean Combs Bashes Corporate America for Failing to Invest in Black Media

Sean “Diddy” Combs, the rapper, producer, and entrepreneur, called out GM and corporate America in a Thursday open letter over their lack of investment in Black communities and argued that the Black community is prepared to “weaponize our dollars.”

Diddy accused GM of making billions of dollars from the Black community every year, while other Black-owned media companies, including his own music cable network REVOLT, have repeatedly been forced to fight for “crumbs.”

“Corporations like General Motors have exploited our culture, undermined our power, and excluded Black entrepreneurs from participating in the value created by Black consumers,” he argued, demanding that corporate America reinvest an equitable percentage of “what you take from our community” and put it back into the community. 

“If you love us, pay us!” Combs pleaded.

In his letter, the musician emphasizes this point, citing that it is disrespectful to see the black community spend over $1 trillion annually while remaining the most “economically undervalued and underserved at every level.”

Diddy concluded his letter by stating that “radical change is the only option. You’re either with us or you are on the other side.” Statements like this have been reflected in recent actions taken by black-owned enterprises around the US.

Late last month, several leaders of major black-owned media companies, including rapper Ice Cube, signed a full-page ad in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press that accused GM CEO Marry Barra of being racist for refusing to meet with them to discuss ways in which they could resolve the issues of systemic racism, and build a partnership between GM and black consumers. 

GM, however, later gave into demands and vowed to spend more advertisement funds on black-owned companies after Byron Allen, of the Allen Media Group, demanded in an interview with the Detroit Free Press that the company allocate at least 5% of its ad budget to black-owned media companies.

The rise in so-called racial equity efforts seems to have been a result of the rising national debate about systemic racism following the killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. The aftermath of this killing found Black Lives Matter and Black Businesses Matter a trending sensation on social media networks.

Combs believes that exposing GM’s historic refusal to invest in black-owned media is not an “assassination of character,” but instead an opportunity to expose the way GM and other advertisers have treated the black community. 

“No longer can corporate America manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable action,” Combs wrote.

Does Hypocrisy Have a Place in Black Business?

Many have responded to Diddy’s letter in both a positive and negative light, with one critic calling the letter “tone-deaf.” Many seem to believe that corporate America does owe the black community, but it does not appear that many want the former to be the messenger in this battle.

Last year, Diddy was called out by Mason Betha, also known as Harlem rapper Ma$e, after Combs threatened to boycott the 62nd annual Grammy Awards for not “respecting hip-hop.” Diddy, who is a three-time Grammy winner and the founder of the Bad Boy Records, blasted the Academy for “how they treat black musicians and hip-hop artists.” 

Betha subsequently lashed out at Combs for ripping off his own Bad Boy artists, accusing the entrepreneur of underpaying him for song publishing early on in his own music career.

Others have taken to Twitter in order to call out the rapper, with one commenting “you’ve been manipulating black artists for decades,” while others believe that when it comes to being respected by corporate America the biggest battle “starts with us.”

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Diddy Faces Backlash Over ‘Hypocritical’ Call To Spend More On Black Businesses


Music industry entrepreneur Sean Combs, also known as Diddy, set off a firestorm online Thursday when he posted an open letter to corporate America calling on businesses to spend more money on Black-owned media companies, only to have his own history of allegedly underpaying Black artists thrown back in his face.

Key Facts

In an open letter titled “If You Love Us, Pay Us,” Combs called on companies to up their advertising spending with Black-owned media businesses to invest in the Black community, writing that “no longer can Corporate America manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable action.”

Combs wrote his own cable TV network, Revolt, has to “fight for crumbs” like every other Black-owned businesses for advertising revenue while big businesses make billions of dollars off the Black community.

However, Combs’ open letter appears to have backfired, as social media users pointed out Combs himself has been accused for years of profiting off underpaid Black artists signed to his record label.

The Lox,  a rap group once signed to Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment, accused the record exec of withholding the group’s publishing rights during a 2005 radio interview, which Combs called into to defend himself — but the issue was settled after Combs returned the publishing rights to members Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, and Styles P shortly after their on-air clash.

Mase, another rapper once on Bad Boy’s roster, slammed Combs last year in an Instagram post, accusing Combs of refusing to sell Mase’s publishing rights back to him unless he could match an offer from a European buyer in excess of $2 million after initially purchasing the rights from Mase for just $20,000 in 1996, Mase claimed.

Combs’ drama over music rights is just a chapter in a long history of artists who claim they were taken advantage of by powerful music industry leaders with unfair recording contracts.

Big Number

$55 million. That’s how much Forbes estimates Combs took home in 2020. Combs began his career as a record executive and producer, but now makes most of his money from drinks, like his partnership with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka and ownership in DeLeón tequila and Aquahydrate water. Forbes estimated Combs was worth $820 million in 2017.

Key Background

“Diddy” was trending on Twitter Thursday, after the open letter went viral and users pointed out artists’ allegations against Combs. Television host Jessica Fyre responded to Combs’ letter, writing she had been approached by his network to do an unpaid hosting job. “We cannot keep knocking white folks for their disrespect towards minority creators while doing the same thing to each other,” she wrote on Twitter. American rapper Noname said Combs was “shaming white corporations for a capitalist business model he almost completely replicated.” Revolut did not immediately respond to a Forbes request for comment.

Further Reading

If You Love Us, Pay Us: A letter from Sean Combs to Corporate America (Revolt)

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The problem with jazz

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on April 8, 2021.

Truthfully there is no problem with jazz. Like it or not, jazz music has a long and rich legacy that tells the story of African pain being transformed into the majesty of the spirit expressed through sound. But you wouldn’t know that from the new curriculum proposed for Alberta’s elementary school students, whose music studies include the statement that “big band ensembles give jazz music a larger sound” as exemplified by music by Glenn Miller, and Mart Kenney, Premier Jason Kenney’s grandfather. Considering how generic it is and how much other vital information is left out, this statement is particularly gobsmacking.

Those of us who have formally studied and professionally perform it understand we are bearers of a unique culture whose most significant aspects are the direct result of black genius and spirituality. Big-band music was developed and perfected by black musicians before Miller or Kenney, who exemplified this “larger sound” after the fact. It is certainly a music built by many, but at its core jazz is a black story, stemming from ancient forms of West African music brought to America by peoples whose languages and arts were literally beaten out of them. The echoes of these wonderful African forms still resonate in jazz today: expressions of life, forbidden by slave owners, covertly coded deep into gospel, folk, and the early forms of New Orleans music from which jazz evolved. Thus, in many ways, a white jazz musician like myself is an ambassador, creating original music that transmits the core black DNA, which makes the best elements of jazz possible.

So to choose a relatively unknown bandleader like Kenney over the legends of the genre or a fellow Albertan, such as black vocalist and trombonist Clarence “Big” Miller, feels educationally criminal. Miller was not only an internationally recognized artist of his own, but also a member of the two greatest big bands of all time, led by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. I don’t sense this was race related, or anything more than lazy research on the part of the curriculum’s creators, but it does not help correct the notion that white people in positions of power inevitably act in ways that devalue black achievement, to put it mildly.

The story of jazz is one of black genius being taken on by white genius, and we must honour that legacy in small matters as much as large. For indeed the creation of this great American art form by black people is no small matter. It is a huge matter. Glenn Miller and Mart Kenney help tell the story, but in this case we must speak of our black brothers and sisters first, the black artists that made Glenn Miller, Kenney, myself and all other artists possible. It is not the “politically correct” thing to do; it is both the factually accurate and right thing to do.

Dr. Daniel Schnee is an anthropologist and former student of Pulitzer Prize winning jazz icon Ornette Coleman.

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Waxing lyrical: Amanda Gorman becomes first poet to grace Vogue cover

The 23-year-old Harvard graduate Amanda Gorman, who became the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration, has made history again — this time as the first poet to be featured on the cover of Vogue Magazine for its May 2021 issue. 

WATCH: First-look Vogue cover reveal

Amanda Gorman and her mother, Joan Wicks, were caught on film reacting to the poet’s Vogue cover:

Vogue cover model: Amanda Gorman’s look

On the cover, Amanda Gorman is seen wearing a flowing Louis Vuitton dress with a wide gold belt. The African-patterned garment was designed by Virgil Abloh, the iconic fashion house’s first black artistic director.

“The first poet ever on the cover of @voguemagazine. I am eternally grateful & do not expect to be the last — for what is poetry if not beauty?” Gorman wrote in her caption. 

“My hands are shaking with love. This is called the Rise of Amanda Gorman, but it is truly for all of you, both named and unseen, who lift me up,” she added. 


For her cover story, Vogue stated that Amanda read her journal entry from the night of the presidential inauguration which read: 

“I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be afraid. And what’s more, it’s okay to seek greatness. That does not make me a black hole seeking attention. It makes me a supernova.”


Gorman was photographed by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz for the Vogue spread. 


Gorman is set to release two books in September this year. The first one being a collection of her poetry, titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, and the second one, a children’s picture book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem.

According to CNN the books have already topped the best-sellers list. 


The poet told Vogue that since the presidential inauguration, she has turned down an estimated $17 million (R247.2 million) in deals. 

“I didn’t really look at the details, because if you see something and it says a million dollars, you’re going to rationalise why that makes sense,” she told Vogue about a deal from an unspecified famous brand.

The strong-willed Gorman said that these large companies’ expectations did not align with her own goals. 

“I have to be conscious of taking commissions that speak to me,” she added.

ALSO READ: Seven things you should know about inaugural poet Amanda Gorman

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Mariah Carey emotional over AAFCA win

Mariah Carey fought back tears as she accepted the AAFCA Innovator Award on Wednesday (07.04.21).

The 52-year-old star admitted it was an “honour” to have been chosen for the accolade by the African American Film Critics Association as she reflected on the early hardships she experienced, which inspired her to “create out of necessity” in order to build a better life for herself.

Following praise from friends and collaborators including Gayle King, Naomi Campbell, Lee Daniels and Misty Copeland, Mariah said during the virtual telecast: “It is an honour to be recognised as an innovator because in my experience when you have holes in your only pair of shoes and are existing on a dollar a day, choosing between food and a subway ride, when you are the only one who believes in your vision for yourself, you better gets to innovating.

“I, like so many African American artists, we create out of necessity, out of pain, out of hardship. We create out of having nothing. Nothing but the ability to believe and that is the power, that is the blessing, that is the ultimate emancipation.”

The ‘Fantasy’ singer then hailed her nine-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe – who she has with ex-husband Nick Cannon – as her greatest innovation and inspiration before growing emotional as she paid tribute to her late relative.

Dedicating the award to all the loved ones and family members who passed away over the last year and “who we have yet to get justice for, who we couldn’t send home in the way we’re used to”, she added: “And on a very personal note, my cousin Vinny, LaVinia Cole, who I really wish could’ve lived to read my memoir, ‘The Meaning of Mariah Carey’. Her recollections called my ancestors forward who I know carried me through that process.

“If we have faith as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible to us. Oh, and by the way that’s Matthew 17:20, not trying to take publishing from the good book. Love ya, appreciate ya and enjoy ya!”

Elsewhere during the ceremony, Viola Davis reflected on the legacy she wants to leave as she accepted the Icon Award.

She said: “It’s been the ride of my life to have this career. I have been blessed and fortunate in every single way to be able to literally give you all the human beings, the black and brown human beings that I’ve embodied and to give them to you and to help you to feel less alone through their stories.

“I will continue to leave a legacy of hope, of life, of humor, of pathos, of humanity for as long as God will have me here.

“I just want to say this one thing, because of this past year and everything that we have been through, what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. We have within us, all the tools that are necessary to elevate our lives in the most unbelievable profound ways.

“I have found it through my acting, but my God, we can find it through every area in our life.”

Winners for the event had previously been announced, with Best Actor going to Viola’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ late co-star Chadwick Boseman.

Andra Day was named Best Actress for ‘The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’, and ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ was honoured with Best Picture, while Best Supporting Actor and Actress went to its stars Daniel Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback.

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Bienen event highlights importance of studying and performing Black art songs


Because Black composers did not get the opportunities to publish or record their songs, many people today are unaware of their music and don’t perform it, panelists said in a Wednesday event, highlighting the need to educate on and promote Black art songs.

In the event, moderated by the Bienen School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, panelists Dr. Louise Toppin and Dr. Willis Patterson spoke about the importance of studying and performing African-American art songs, the barriers that prevent the spread of knowledge and the ways teachers and students can advocate for these composers and their music.

Toppin, a professor of voice at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, started the event by asking the viewers to think about the number of composers they could list off the top of their head. Then she asked how many of those composers were Black, as a way to emphasize the lack of education and recognition surrounding Black composers.

To further illustrate this point, Patterson, the former associate dean of University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, talked about how important it is to increase one’s knowledge of music of other identities.

“There is that tendency to feel some amount of awkwardness on the part of other ethnicities in this country because they don’t know the traditions,” Patterson said. “If you’ve developed a feeling of comfort with Italian art songs and German art songs… then we should feel less awkwardness about learning African-American art songs.”

Additionally, they spoke about the lack of accessibility to African-American art songs as a direct result of people of color not having the same opportunities to publish their work as their White counterparts. Because these composers were unable to get their scores published, the songs were not taught or played in concert halls, Patterson and Toppin explained, which prevented the songs from being heard and promoted.

Toppin also spoke about Black people’s hesitation to embrace their “Blackness” through studying African-American art songs because “they were trying to find their way in a society that was oppressive to them.”

“So you now are in a situation of no one taking ownership of this music because no wanted to own the fact that they could learn and present this music,” Toppin said. “It wasn’t until later periods that they started to embrace… the thought of, ‘I need to be proud of myself as a Black American to White America.’”

Toppin and Patterson then played excerpts from art songs by early and contemporary Black composers, including Harry T. Burleigh, R. Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still and Chicago native Margaret Bonds (Bienen ‘33, ‘34).

The event concluded with a question and answer section, in which both Toppin and Patterson emphasized the need to increase awareness of and appreciation for African-American art songs.

“I am very hopeful of the future study of African-American art primarily because I’ve seen the evidence, and we have such wonderful young composers,” Patterson said. “These people are going to make wonderful performances.”

To further advocate for the promotion and performance of African-American composed songs, Toppin highlighted a database she created where anyone can find songs from the diaspora.

Ultimately, she said it’s most important for students to show interest in these songs and ask their teachers to study and perform them.

Dean Montgomery ended the event by thanking the two speakers and encouraging viewers to heed their advice and “take on the mantle.”

“This was a personal, memorable event for me,” Montgomery said. “I’m so enthusiastic about (this) presentation, and it’s more than we could have dreamed of.”

Emails: [email protected] and [email protected] 
Twitters: @laya_neel and @D_Ramos42

Related Stories:
In Focus: One year after petition, Bienen students, faculty push to diversify music curriculum
Bienen alum uses music for political activism
Bienen alumni create musical instruments for students with disabilities


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Poet Amanda Gorman featured on the cover of Vogue

(CNN) — Poet Amanda Gorman has another accolade to her name: She’s the first poet to be featured on a cover for Vogue.

The 23-year-old Harvard graduate and youth poet laureate was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the May issue.

For the cover, she wore a Louis Vuitton blanket, styled as a dress, cinched with a wide and intricate gold belt. The garment’s vibrant pattern is inspired by African textiles and was designed by Virgil Abloh — Louis Vuitton’s first Black artistic director.

“The first poet ever on the cover of @voguemagazine. I am eternally grateful & do not expect to be the last—for what is poetry if not beauty?” Gorman wrote in an Instagram post. “What a joy to do this cover while wearing a piece designed by groundbreaking Black designer @virgilabloh that honors my heritage.”

Gorman shot to fame following her powerful reading of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January.

She quickly signed with IMG models; graced the February cover of Time; and made a series of public appearances, including an International Women’s Day panel with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and supermodel Chrissy Teigen.

In September, Gorman will release two books — a collection of her poetry, “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems” and a kid’s picture book “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem” — which have already topped the bestseller lists on Amazon.

“It took so much labor, not only on behalf of me, but also of my family and of my village, to get here,” Gorman told Vogue.

The poet recognized everyone who has supported her on her meteoric rise.

“This is called the Rise of Amanda Gorman,” she wrote on Instagram, “but it is truly for all of you, both named and unseen, who lift me up.”

Gorman, who has expressed interest in running for office in the future, has spoken about the potency of using once’s voice as a political tool and her own calling to do so.

She told CNN’s Anderson Cooper following her inauguration appearance that she has a mantra she repeats to herself before every reading.

“I am the daughter of Black writers who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me,” she stated.

But her ambition also comes with complex feelings, she told Vogue.

Following her Inauguration Day reading, she wrote in her journal: “I’ve learned that it’s okay to be afraid. And what’s more, it’s okay to seek greatness. That does not make me a black hole seeking attention. It makes me a supernova.”

(Copyright (c) 2021 CNN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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Our Unfiltered Pitch to Prospective Obies

A couple of weeks ago, a cohort of creative, passionate, and bright high school seniors from all over the world opened emails from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid notifying them that they had been accepted into Oberlin’s class of 2025. As a senior year defined by COVID-19 draws to a close, these students must decide what institution they want to call home for the next four years. We remember what this moment was like for us — weighing an ever-expanding list of pros and cons for a new life is deeply stressful, and certainly not made easier with a pandemic. 

As student journalists, we know that Oberlin is not perfect; a testament to that fact is decades of articles documenting controversies and institutional missteps that have been published in this paper. As an Editorial Board, we have been critical of various administrative decisions and aspects of student culture on campus. But we also love our school. 

Every day in our lives as students, and in our work with the Review, we engage with a host of microcosms in this community, each more excited than the last to tell you about their student organization or academic passion. And in our interviews with students, faculty, and staff we see an Oberlin that glows with enthusiasm and innovation. So from the perspective of your friendly student journalists, without colorful admissions flyers or sugar-coated soliloquies, here is our pitch for Oberlin. 

The fact is, we live in an age of racial inequities, gender imbalances, and workplaces designed around a culture of exploitation. As students at Oberlin, we’re not only a part of conversations on how to change the status quo but are actively involved in enacting measures that genuinely make a difference. 

Last summer, President Carmen Twillie Ambar announced a Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity, and leading this mission is a group of people tasked with creating spaces and programming to center otherwise marginalized voices in our community. Student Senate has led the charge in its own right, in part through co-hosting events such as Black Renaissance: A Celebration of Black Artistry. The event arose out of a moment of controversy, when the Oberlin Conservatory published a flyer for a Black History Month faculty recital — titled “A Celebration of Black Artistry” — that featured an entirely white ensemble. In response to the Conservatory’s blunder and its lackluster apology, students organized their own celebration. In the midst of COVID, a student-organized event safely brought together over a hundred spectators to support their peers in sharing music, dance, and poetry. This day of performances marked one of the best moments of togetherness the campus has had all year. Every performer was met with an outpouring of claps, snaps, and cheers. On stage, Obies shared their anger, their heartbreaks, and their joy. This is the Oberlin that we cherish. 

We also want to talk about our school’s structural challenges. For some years now the College — like many institutions in higher education — has been dealing with a budget deficit, and Oberlin’s response has been to face it head-on. In 2019 the College launched a year-long Academic and Administrative Program Review which resulted in a host of recommendations, not just to cut costs, but also to boost our academic and extracurricular offerings as well as student life. As an Editorial Board, we have often strongly disagreed with the College’s budget-balancing measures, and we stand by those criticisms. However, the upcoming phase of One Oberlin’s strategic planning that seeks to build the College up in new ways promises exciting changes. 

We have already seen some big shifts. Among the One Oberlin recommendations was the recommendation to strengthen Oberlin’s career development. While Oberlin has always done a good job of preparing students for graduate school and academic fellowships, the College was previously lacking in how it prepared students for other work environments. This year, the Career Development Center has created a number of programs to give students practical experience and advice in advocating for their own careers, including the Junior and Sophomore Practicums and the Senior Launch Program. Crucially, too, Oberlin has integrated diversity, equity, and inclusion training into its career development, a move that is both critical and overlooked by almost every institution. 

Beyond that, you’re probably wondering about Oberlin’s academics and faculty. Oberlin truly does shine in its academic mentorship and as students we love our classes. Oberlin’s academics stand out in the collective desire to grow with the needs of students in a changing world. After data suggested that prospective and current students were interested in studying business as well as global health, Oberlin started work on creating two new concentrations in these fields. Very near and dear to our hearts is the new journalism concentration, which blends both academic requirements and real-world experience. 

On the ground, the College is engaged in some incredible work. Of course, nothing we do is perfect, and some fairly public mistakes have been made along the way. Here we want to highlight two things: First, making mistakes in the process of trying something new is inevitable. The real test is in our ability to learn and then rectify our mistakes, which, to some extent, we’ve been able to do. The second thing is a testament to our student body: At every step of Oberlin’s journey to change how we understand higher education, Obies have not hesitated to criticize or congratulate decisions made by administrators, have been effectively vocal in asking for help and offering support, and have never hesitated to represent what they stand for. Obies embody an unwavering courage to be different and not settle for anything less than a communal best effort. 

Oberlin’s comprehensive approach to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 has kept our campus community safe this past year and is a testament to this school’s greatest strength. The College instituted widespread testing and other measures that resulted in extremely low positivity rates — there have only been 11 cases on campus this semester. This would not have been possible without the dedication of not only College leadership but all of the faculty, staff, and students who come to campus. The people here care about this community and keeping one another safe. 

A quick scroll through the Review’s homepage tells the same story, with every critical op-ed that was written by a student showing they care enough about this place to want to make a difference and each story in the Arts & Culture section highlighting something vibrant in our community. As the weeks go by, we as an Editorial Board are continually excited by the work of our peers. The “Think one person can change the world?” tagline is cheesy, but it points to something real: Oberlin is a great place for people who are always striving for something better, who envision a world of creative and ambitious solutions, who are never quite satisfied. If that sounds like you, you should come to our — admittedly flawed — but deeply wonderful school.

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Artist Robert Pruitt discussed his artwork and the Black experience

Visiting artist Robert Pruitt. (Mairead Brogan/CU Independent)

Visual artist Robert Pruitt led a virtual lecture on April 6, the final speaker in an artist talk series hosted by the University of Colorado Boulder Arts and Art History Program. The lecture focused on his personal artwork, which addresses the Black experience in America through large-scale drawings and multi-media work. 

Pruitt began his art career by creating paintings in college, but quickly developed a passion for drawings. In graduate school, Pruitt began to invest the majority of his creativity into large-scale graphite drawings.  

“I like drawing because it’s very much in my control. I love that you can see the linework and the movement,” Pruitt said. “That’s the magic of drawing; both its making and its wholeness is immediately visible to the audience.”

Not only are the drawings themselves magical, so is Pruitt’s creative process. Pruitt brings people into his studio to model where he dresses them in intricate outfits and wigs. After the ideal image is captured, the drawing begins, going back and forth between the captured image and the artistic expression of it.

“When you see the final drawing, this part of the process might not seem necessary, but I just need to see and visualize it,” Pruitt said. “The process helps me capture a moment of that figure’s world, a peek into their universe.” 

Each piece is seven by five feet, spanning above Pruitt’s height. The large-scale drawings are surfaced on stained paper, achieved through a variety of methods from tea and coffee stains to fabric dye. 

“I wanted to go against white neutrality as a starting point,” Pruitt said. “I love the color in the background as a type of meaning for myself.”

Pruitt’s works assess the Black experience in America through the artistic exploration of identities, history and destiny. Each of his drawings focuses on one specific character, telling intricate stories one person at a time.

“There is a sense that the characters I draw form this world in my mind; a liberated Black populace that exists in my imagination and hopefully exists in real life someday,” Pruitt said. 

Pruitt gains inspiration from other African American artists preceding him, including Ernie Barnes and Aaron Douglas. Pruitt gained other major inspiration from comic books, which he grew up reading as a child. One series of Pruitt’s work displays characters clad in superhero costumes and paraphernalia, drawing parallels to popular Marvel comics. 

“Comics introduced me to really grand existential ideas early on. It’s the concept of a fictional world being present in a very real way,” Pruitt said. 

Other works of Pruitt’s are more interactive, with multimedia elements of sound and visual. These works, entitled “Rearview Mirror” and “Meteorite” incorporate experimental jazz music and recorded voice audio along with the drawings. 

Currently, Pruitt continues to draw and has more recently re-incorporated paint into his works. His art career presses on as he continues to communicate valuable messages about culture and identity. 

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Bailey Diamond at bailey.diamond@colorado.edu

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