BLACK HISTORY MONTH February 2022 Newsletter
INCUBATOR Art Lab
In celebration and in recognition of Black History Month, the INCUBATOR Art Lab Team honors the talents, artistic achievements and innovations of Black Canadian Artists, Black Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) artists and Artists from the African Diaspora.
In our very first newsletter dedicated to Black History Month, we are showcasing the artistic talents of three of our INCUBATOR Art lab BIPOC artist team members. This edition of our newsletter is edited by Mariama Henry (MSc.) a scientist, mentor/educator and artist. Mariama joined us in November 2021 as our new Bioart Technician.
Editorial Statement by Mariama N. Henry MSc.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The above quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. evokes a powerful message and leaves a moment for us to self-reflect. The keyword which stands out in this quote is “silent”, a word commonly used in our vocabulary yet has a significant meaning depending on how it is perceived.
There are times to remain silent and then there are times when we have been given a voice, platform to speak up of the injustices and inequality in society. In terms of the art world, where the contributions of artwork from ethnic visible minority groups have been overlooked throughout the years, it is time to speak up. Recognizing the underrepresentation of diversity in the art world is an understatement, it is the piercing elephant in the room, bringing about uneasiness and denial. It is not a ‘hot topic’ of discussion, but a problem that clearly needs to be addressed.
Art moves and redefines who we are and our sense of how we as individuals or as a collective group view the world. Art gives us a platform to speak, transmit our feelings, thoughts and how we convey and communicate information with others. Art is a global cultural phenomenon encompassing many cultures and ethnicities, that need to be more represented in art institutions and in art history. At its very core, art should never be a method or form to exclude other groups of people.
A time for change: Most often when we think of art and art history, we think of the European Renaissance or artistic movements such as Impressionism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Pop Art. However, the reality is art is not only synonymous with these types of artistic styles or movements. Rather art, is a collection of works, concepts, and ideas that embody and encapsulate peoples of many ethnic backgrounds, ideologies and perspectives, not just from Eurocentric viewpoints. Furthermore, what about the Harlem Renaissance or the Black Arts Movement which also helped to shape the artistic world, why aren’t these art movements more widely discussed?
Unearthing the unseen: The beauty and shades of black and/or BIPOC artists needs to be showcased and represented more widely in today’s artworld. The artwork of BIPOC artists should not be viewed as a trend or the latest fad, rather as a central contributor to human art history. More credit, recognition and exposure should be given to these artists. We as artists, art educators have a duty to celebrate and recognize the achievements of all artists no matter their racial identity. Furthermore, the achievements of BIPOC Artists should not only be reserved for black history month but rather should be a yearly celebration (throughout the year).
As an artist and a scientist, and the newest member of INCUBATOR Art Lab, I ask myself how can we break down barriers to have a more inclusive environment in the arts community more generally? And what specific contributions can INCUBATOR art Lab make to resolving these issues?
Some ideas which come to mind include:
• Hosting workshops centered around BIPOC artists or showcasing BIPOC artists and the incorporation and inclusion of BIPOC artists who have disabilities/physical and mental challenges
• Curating exhibitions showcasing the artwork of BIPOC artists
• Promotion of Bioart workshops, Bioart diversity camps to BIPOC communities and ethnic/visible minority groups
• Visiting and interacting with BIPOC communities and learning about more BIPOC artistic culture
• Providing art opportunities to marginalized/racialized communities
These are perhaps some examples of how we can implement artistic equality and recognition of the artistic work from members of the BIPOC arts community locally and more generally.
In closing I leave with you the following question:
Are we truly ready in our society to accept/receive and recognize the artistic talents and achievements of BIPOC artists, or do we choose simply to be silent and ignore the situation?
Closing Remarks – Dr Jennifer Willet
Director, INCUBATOR Art Lab
It is with great pleasure, I welcome Mariama Henry (MSc.) to the INCUBATOR Art Lab team as our new Bioart Technician. Mariama is a scientist and an artist who has dedicated herself to community engagement and activism addressing systemic racism through mentorship and advocacy in cultural, educational and medical environments. In addition to her scientific and creative contributions to the lab, Mariama has spearheaded several new initiatives to better support and celebrate BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+, and people living with disabilities, within our community. I am thrilled to support the launch of an annual Black History Month Newsletter celebrating the achievements of Black artists, scientists, theorists and activists. With this edition we introduce three INCUBATOR Art Lab team members from the African Diaspora, and of Indigenous descent: Mariama Henry, Nate Talbot, and Garvin Chinnia.
At INCUBATOR Art Lab, we work hard to create a cultural atmosphere where everyone is accepted. We have worked to educate, support, celebrate, and hire diverse students and staff members towards increasing equity and challenge systemic racism in artistic, scientific, and educational communities. We believe that interdisciplinary excellence and innovation is fostered through pluralistic research methodologies – that invite many disciplines, and individuals and communities across the human spectrum to come together to think through grand human challenges. The work of INCUBATOR Art lab is not solely rooted in artistic and research outputs - but also in reimagining what a lab is, who belongs here, and what kinds of knowledge and activities are celebrated here. Lastly, we at INCUBATOR Art Lab are dedicated to exploring biotechnological futures rooted in notions of love that integrate feminist and post-colonial perspectives; historical, agricultural, interspecies and indigenous knowledges; community engagement and sustainability. We look to bell hooks, who describes love as a transformational force for social justice. She saw love not as a romantic emotion but as a durational practice and a commitment to “care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication” (hooks, 2000).
With love, we celebrate Black History Month, and support and applaud the accomplishments of our BIPOC team members year-round!
Dr. Jennifer Willet
Director, INCUBATOR Art Lab
Canada Research Chair in Art, Science and Ecology
Professor, School of Creative Arts, University of Windsor
Closing Remarks – Bruce J.G. Kotowich
Director - School of Creative Arts
I am pleased to support INCUBATOR Art Lab's celebration of Black History Month with the launch of an annual Black History Month Newsletter. This newsletter, celebrating the accomplishments of our Black staff and students will benefit the SoCA community in so many ways. We are excited to welcome Mariama Henry to the BioArt Lab. BioArt is an exciting form of artistic expression that focuses on nature and natural products as it’s medium. We see BioArt as the intersection of art and science. Mariama is our new lab technician. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience from the sciences and her passion for art. Mariama is already connecting with our students during Winter 2022; encouraging them and guiding them to explore the possibilities of expression through BioArt. There are many events planned for the lab including a celebration of Black History Month. Please enjoy the offerings and possibilities of the BioArt Lab and our new INCUBATOR Art Lab Studio on University Ave. West as we prepare to welcome visitors back to campus again.
Bruce J.G. Kotowich, DMA
Acting Director of the School of Creative Arts
Director of Choral Activities
Vocal Area Supervisor
Associate Professor of Music
University of Windsor