North Central News

Protest art exhibit shines a light on North Central College’s call for social justice

Jacob Imm

Dec 18, 2020

The North Central College Department of Art and Design is hosting an exhibition devoted to student, faculty and alumni protest art now through February 25, 2021 in the Schoenherr Gallery at the Wentz Performing Arts Center.

Pieces in the collection include signs and other materials used by North Central students, faculty and alumni in actual protests against instances of racially motivated violence and the presence of racial prejudice in society. The curators of the exhibition, Associate Professor of Art and Design Hale Ekinci and Assistant Professor of Art and Design David Cordero, have expressed the project represents community members who support Black Lives Matter and anti-racist demands for the BIPOC community.

Ekinci explained the project arose out of the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 as a way for the department to lend a voice to the cause and bring more attention to the North Central community members involved.

It is a way to provide a space for people to share their opinions and struggles,” Ekinci said. “I think it is both a way for us to think about these important issues and … amplify the demands of so many of us in the community that sometimes might feel unheard.”

Signs used in nonviolent protests are not often thought of as separate from the people holding them, who often use their voices, movement and other means to present their messages. The exhibition aims to present the signs in a new way to make viewers think about them differently.

A protest poster that is part of the exhibit of student art from North Central College.

Photo credit: Digital photography, "Happy Birthday Breonna!", Brandon Barnes, adjunct faculty, Gender and Sexuality Studies, College of Arts & Sciences

“They are instant ways of communicating your demands when the (other) voices can drown yours,” Ekinci said of protest signs. “They are also [works of art] that bring meaning to viewers in different contexts. Seeing them all together in a gallery without the chants gives them a new perspective.” 

Ekinci sees the exhibition leading to greater awareness—a first step on the way to positive change.

“I hope it starts conversations,” she said. “I hope it gets people uncomfortable. I hope it makes people reflect on their own contributions to the good fight and encourages them to take action. I also hope that it helps (people fighting for justice) feel not alone, because they are not. And we will amplify their voices whenever we can.”

The Protest Art exhibition can be seen virtually at Plans are to continue the exhibition into the spring semester with possible small, socially distanced in-person visits. Check the web page as well as the department’s Instagram & Facebook (@northcentralartanddesign) and Twitter (@ncccas) accounts for further details.