BLM exhibit pulls visitors into powerful message

Visitors travel through exhibit; transported to summer of 2020



Artwork in the Black Lives Matter Artist Grant Exhibition, located in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, encite feelings of anger, sadness, and hope.


Time and time again, art has been used to depict and remember the importance of our history, shaping the world’s way of thinking and changing our view of society.

This fall semester, Palouse residents have the opportunity to experience an art exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art surrounding the topic of Black Lives Matter. Sparkling shard glass portraits and airbrush glass panes decorate the room’s walls enticing all to come in and see. 

The exhibit consists of 20 Washington artists who won the Black Lives Matter Artist Grant Program created by the Jordan Family Foundation and the Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation. Each awardee received a grant of $2,500 to fund the creation of art and public awareness, according to the museum website.

Museum visitor ambassador Sabrina Hoenes said the museum gets a wide range of visitors looking at the exhibit. Frequently, vistors are first captivated by a set of four jean jackets in the corner of the museum’s front room. 

The project, created by Jacqulynn Schaubel, is suspended from the ceiling. The four painted jean jackets represent Trayvon Martin and Angela Davis, the concept of a young boy who represents innocence and a young girl who faces a life of possibilities, respectively.

In 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman while walking home late one night on his way back to his father’s house. Trayvon Martin was only 17 years old.

This tragedy ignited one of the biggest protests in the BLM movement, which is still felt in the community to this day.

Angela Davis, an iconic advocate at the forefront of civil rights protests and political awareness, has challenged societies ways for over six decades.

These two inspired Schaubel with her piece on BLM. On one jacket, a container of painted skittles is strewn across the demin, representing Martin’s story and the package of candy he was enjoying on his way home.

On another jacket, a portrait of Davis displayed flowers and the BLM fist along with her famous quote, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” She was chosen as an inspiration because of her ability to incite change through words and actions.

In the corner of the museum’s front room, sun beams shine brightly inward on the demin jackets organized to suspend from the ceiling at the height of each inspiration; Martin’s jacket is hung at five feet eleven inches, Davis’ jacket is hung at five feet eight inches and the other two are hanging at the average height of children.

“I feel like many people may come in to just glance around, but they always end up getting pulled into the message and beauty these artists have brought out,” Hoenes said. “My personal favorite piece is a documentary shown. It fascinates me how the media showed the 2020 protests.” 

Further into the exhibit, “LIEabilities,” a short documentary lasting around 15 minutes, sends you straight back to the summer of 2020 and the Seattle BLM protests.

Filmmaker Derek Johnson was inspired to capture the protests, showing a perspective painting a different picture than what the media showed the nation — a perspective Johnson believes to be more truthful. 

Transfixed on the screen and various collages, professors, students and visitors alike spend countless hours wandering through the exhibition, exploring the artwork’s depth and display. Jeff Jones, English teaching assistant professor, seized the opportunity for his English 101 students to experience the exhibit.

“It’s really powerful,” Jones said. “Spending some time in front of each artist’s work really pays off. The students seemed excited, maybe a little daunted, but my hope is that they will engage with the artwork with a creative fusion of their own views and the concepts from the class.” 

The hundreds of people who visit the museum every week for this exhibit experience bone-chilling interpretations that evoke extensive thought on the BLM movement. Some pieces are so warm they tug at your heart strings, while others are gut-wrenchingly real.

When such a great opportunity to witness creativity and expansive viewpoints are presented to Cougs, who would not seize the chance? 

The exhibit began on Sept. 7 and runs through Dec. 18. The opening reception for the display is 5-7 p.m. Sept. 28. An intergenerational discussion will take place from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 29.

Both programs are for the public and will have multiple grant winners speaking. The discussion will be live-streamed on WSU‘s YouTube and moderated by Lisa Guerrero, WSU associate vice provost for inclusive excellence.