The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC) is showcasing its latest exhibitions online.
While the museum was closed to the public for more than two months in response to COVID-19, staff launched four virtual art exhibitions on ASC’s website, asc701.org, according to a news release.
PINE BLUFF HIGH SCHOOL ART EXHIBITION
With the COVID-19 pandemic also sending students home, a little extra creativity was required for the latest annual Pine Bluff High School Art Exhibition, according to the release.
The longtime showcase of PBHS art students is exclusively online this year. The virtual exhibition includes 20 artworks and accompanying statements by the artists.
The 18 artists in the exhibition are: Artiea Allen, Aiyana Arnold, Quinton Battles, Cason Blunt, Latavia Burrell, Zakiya Dean, Jameisha Donson, Elizabeth Duncan, Tyler Foots, Kalan Gardner, Rosalyn James, Terry Jasper, Tilton Rhodes, Aaliyha Shavers, Jayla Spellman, Grace Swygert, Kendahl Taylor and Dreion Thomas.
This year’s themes were “Black Excellence” and “Black is Beautiful.”
PBHS teacher Shalisha Thomas — who earlier this year won a prestigious Milken Educator Award — led the students and selected the artwork for the show.
“I charged the students with finding an African-American artist’s style to help guide their artistic choices,” she said.
The students were inspired by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Elizabeth Catlett, Kerry James Marshall, Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley.
“Also, I asked the students to write about their experience and to tell me why they did what they did in their artwork,” Thomas said.
Viewers can read the artist statements alongside the works to gain a little more insight into their art pieces.
“The artworks reflect beauty and the achievements of African Americans,” Thomas said. “The students chose the subject matter and the medium. So the exhibition includes a large variety.”
The student artists created “masterful and insightful works that are a true joy to view,” said ASC Curator Chaney Jewell. “Students were able to create artworks that celebrate African Americans while also questioning our society and how minorities are represented. The students’ thoughtful execution of their work shows great promise and they are sure to have a bright future ahead of them within the art field.”
This is Thomas’ third year to curate the show but her first time working on an online exhibition.
“Gathering my student’s artwork and rereading their artist statements brought me so much joy,” she said. “One challenge that I faced was second-guessing myself on which pieces to include because my students have created great work this year. I wanted to make sure that I chose pieces that displayed a wide variety of techniques, subject matter, and artistic expression.”
The students were also offered an opportunity for extra credit, inspired by a popular photography “challenge” circulating on social media during the quarantine. The original project was to restage famous works of art using people and household objects. In a twist of the original concept, the students were asked to recreate their own artworks.
“Many of the artists created works centering around black excellence or beauty they find in celebrities or influences outside of themselves,” Jewell explained. “But, by restaging their artwork with the artists themselves as the subject, they are now the example of Black being beautiful and Black Excellence.”
ONE MILLION STRONG EXHIBIT
Another ASC exhibitiononline and at the center is “One Million Strong: A Photographic Tribute of the Million Man March.” Pine Bluff native and Dollarway High School graduate Roderick Terry captured a defining moment in American history on Oct. 16, 1995. Black men from all over the United States came together in Washington, D.C., for a day of atonement and reconciliation, according to a news release.
Terry’s photos capture moments of excitement, jubilance, thoughtfulness, seriousness, togetherness and peacefulness during the massive demonstration. The 360-degree virtual exhibition allows a viewer to move around with a few swipes or clicks to explore the exhibition as if touring the gallery. The viewer can tap or click on each artwork to view the piece larger.
“One Million Strong” can now also be viewed in person in ASC’s William H. Kennedy Jr. Gallery through Sept. 19, 2020.
FROM THE VAULT
Another exhibition that visitors can tour online or in person is “From the Vault: Works from the Permanent Collection.” Highlighting recent acquisitions to ASC’s permanent collection, “From the Vault” demonstrates ASC’s commitment to collecting the artwork of Arkansas artists, African American artists and artists of the Delta. Artists include Dustyn Bork, Norwood Creech, Rex Deloney and Rashawn Penister, according to the release.
The virtual tours also allow an exhibition to live on after the artwork has been removed from the walls. “Whimsy & Flights of Fancy,” which ended during ASC’s public closure, continues online. The exhibition paired sculptures from the Arkansas Arts Center’s Toys Designed by Artists collection with paintings by Eric Freeman, Katherine Strause and Sherry J. Williamson.
ASC reopened to the public June 2 with safety guidelines in place — among those, visitors (excluding ages 10 and younger) are required to wear masks, and the number of visitors is limited to 10 at any one time.
To help cultivate a touchless experience for visitors, QR codes posted in the galleries are available for visitors to look up additional artwork information instead of handling printed catalogs. Using their cell phones to scan the QR codes, visitors can view interviews with artists and informational videos.
“One Million Strong” is sponsored by Simmons Bank. The annual Pine Bluff High School Art Exhibition is sponsored by Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel Co. “From the Vault” is sponsored by the Kline Family Foundation.