“Convergence: Cracks in the Glass Ceiling” is an exhibit on display at Grand Valley State University’s Haas Center for the Performing Arts that encourages students to cross boundaries and engage in the conversation about racial injustice. It is co-curated by Muse GR, an art gallery in Grand Rapids that fosters an inclusive and passionate creative space.
The display features the work of eleven artists, including graduates of Grand Valley State University. They use a wide range of media and styles to create a vibrant image of art and culture. Contemporary art in the exhibition combines pop, street and graffiti, fiber and urban genres in its presentation.
According to a study guide provided to visitors by the GVSU Art Gallery, “The artists in this exhibit directly and indirectly address social and racial justice and economic issues. Stylistically, their works embody joy and anxiety, while also embracing the anxiety and excitement of life in 21st century America.”
Artists come from places as diverse as Detroit, Chicago, Washington, DC and London to bring together a narrative of experiences and community. Three themes prevalent throughout the exhibition are ‘Breaking Barriers’, ‘Pushing Boundaries’ and ‘Art Activism’.
“Some artists were connected by working together for years. 3-4 artists that we are art friends with, we sometimes collaborate with, and the rest were approached after admiring their work,” said Muse GR co-creator Steven Smith. Smith is an alumnus of GVSU and teaches as an adjunct professor.
“We like to work with what we call ‘neo-artists,’ or new artists, to help them get started,” Smith said. “We also cultivate talent and skills in people interested in art by providing classes and workshops.”
The GVSU Art Gallery describes inspirations for the exhibit, drawing from pioneering artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hammons. Combining their contributions to culture with the evolving field of pop art creates a colorful and thought-provoking perspective presented in the galleries.
“Of course, Picasso, Van Gogh, we all know them,” said Andre Rey, an artist in the exhibit. “When I was younger, I didn’t know there were people doing what I like at a high level.”
The artists presented in the exhibition break down the barriers between themeen art styles, using the result to reflect on injustice in society and representation in the art world. According to the gallery’s study guide, “91.7% of North American artists in museum collections born after 1944 are white.”
“We’re breaking down that barrier between what is fine art versus street art,” said GVSU illustration alumna Jasmine Bruce. “One of the pieces I created was (from) when I was visiting Grand Valley.”
Bruce said it’s important for students to see how different styles combine and reveal a deeper meaning in a work of art.
GVSU chose to collaborate with Muse because it hopes students will learn about the intertwining of art and culture from the exhibit and be inspired in their own endeavors.
“When there’s art around, you can learn about yourself,” Smith said. “Students can learn that you can use art to tell stories and make a difference. Bryce Detroit’s pieces (have) sparked conversations across the nation.
The gallery’s artists and curators are thrilled to bring “Convergence” to GVSU and emphasize the importance of exhibiting it on a university campus.
“The whole idea of college is to expand your mind and think in different ways that maybe we haven’t thought of before,” said Steven Reynolds, another GVSU alum who is proud to present the exhibit to current students. “I think that’s a big reason why he belongs here at this university.”
Reynolds’ work in the exhibition was inspired by Billie Holiday’s rendition of the poem “Strange Fruit” by Meeropol. He believes this encapsulates the theme of the gallery exhibition and encourages students to think about the ways in which art and culture can contribute to racial equality.
Art students can learn from the exhibition how to put themselves and their stories into their work in a unique and innovative way.
“Be confident and know that your work is good enough,” Ray said. “Someone will see the value in it if you put yourself out there.”
Those interested in viewing “Convergence” can view the campus display as well as its other half at Muse GR until March 31. More information can be found at the GVSU Art Gallery website.