The State College branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has partnered with Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture to host an art exhibit and awards ceremony for Juneteenth Friday night.
The exhibit, which took place at the Woskob Family Gallery downtown, was the NAACP’s first weekend event dedicated to celebrating Juneteenth, which commemorates the legal end of slavery in the United States. .
The theme of the art exhibit was “Reflections of Black Experiences: Voices of Freedom Through the Ages”.
The exhibition featured works by elementary, middle and high school students, as well as works by local and international artists.
It was the first “annual juried exhibition” at State College, according to Grace Hampton, and the first time an art exhibit presented for the holiday has “really engaged the community”.
Hampton, professor emeritus of Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture and curator of the exhibit, said the event was “more of a celebration than an art exhibit for her.”
“[The event is] based on the philosophy that in traditional African culture, the arts are an integral part of people’s daily lives,” said Hampton. “They don’t separate it.”
Edgar Farmer, professor emeritus of education at Penn State, said it was important to him that people who see art realize that “they can [also] do these things.
“Creativity and art bring groups of people together,” Farmer said.
Farmer showcased his woodcarving works at the expo and said his journey with the craft began when he was a Boy Scout seeking 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.
During the exhibit, the music of local high school saxophonist Lake Black and his band was featured.
“Jazz is culturally important black music, so we thought it would be a good thing to have in the event,” Black said.
Black also said he was genuinely 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 highlight the holidays and also show the importance of the story behind the music,” Black said.
State College Mayor Ezra Nanes also attended the event and said it was “so wonderful to celebrate June 19 with the community.”
“I wanted to get out there and celebrate black and African American arts and culture and really appreciate the joys and the talents that everyone brings to our community,” Nanes said.
An awards ceremony was held at the closing of the exhibition. A total of $800 in prizes were awarded for the prizes.
Entrants were rewarded in several age categories and all those whose work was featured in the exhibition received an honorable mention including a certificate and a letter stating the fact of their entry.
From kindergarten to second grade, Iyuna de Soetan won with “My Flag”. In the third through fifth grade section, Aiden Olawoyin took first place with “Aiden’s Heart.” Among students in grades six through eight, Neve Johnson won first prize with “Self Portrait.”
Augustus Nicholas was the high school champion of the contest, taking first place with “All Wars Are Civil Wars”. And Olaniyi Fakeye was crowned the adult winner for his ‘traditional Nigerian entertainer’.
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