Jacoby Arts Center’s multi-platform exploration aims to ‘gather voices that are not listened to' | St. Louis Public Radio

Jacoby Arts Center’s multi-platform exploration aims to ‘gather voices that are not listened to'

Jul 8, 2016

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, contributor Steve Potter discussed Jacoby Arts Center’s multi-platform artistic exploration entitled “Social Justice: Both Sides of the River,” which opened earlier this July.

While celebrating Alton’s civil rights history, the program also grapples with racism through many different mediums, including music, film, discussion and visuals. Sun Smith-Foret, an artist and co-facilitator of the program, said the idea for the exploration began with photographer and curator Freida L. Wheaton’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” work after the police shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014.

Wheaton’s exhibition, “Visualizing Life: Social Justice in Real Life,” will be on display at the Jacoby Arts Center through Aug. 6.

In addition to confronting the topic of social justice, the exhibition also seeks to bridge a divide between Alton and the rest of the St. Louis metropolitan area.  

”There’s a perception that Alton is self-contained and, in fact, Alton is its own entity but it is part of the greater metropolitan area,” Smith-Foret said. “There’s not always a lot of mixing of artists from both sides of the river.”

The topic of the exhibition took on a new, visceral meaning this week following the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five police officers who died during a sniper attack in Dallas.

“Social justice means a number of things collectively,” Wheaton said.  “It means how the citizens and residents of the area are treated with respect to the law, from any number of perspectives. For example: red lining, housing, gentrification, policing, justice and it certainly includes being killed by a police officer for no reason as a first instance of encounter.”

Denise Ward-Brown, a filmmaker who directed the documentary ‘Jim Crow to Barack Obama,’ which will be shown July 15, said she saw this experience as a chance for artists to amplify voices of social justice.

“One of the things I’ve noticed as a filmmaker is that in the mainstream media, books, films, mainstream American memory … oftentimes the story about African Americans is left out,” Ward-Brown said. “As a filmmaker, my crusade in social justice is to gather those voices that are not listened to. Often the term is, ‘people don’t have a voice.’ They absolutely have a voice. The problem is, people aren’t listening. As an artist, we want to make sure our voices are heard, our emotions, intellect, spiritual leanings are recorded and put into the public so people have the opportunity to witness, understand.”

Related Events

What: Jacoby Arts Center Presents "Social Justice: Both Sides of the River"
When: July 1 - August 6, 2016
Opening reception, Friday, July 8, 6-8 p.m.
Where: Jacoby Arts Center, 627 East Broadway, Alton, IL 62002
More information.

What: Denise Ward-Brown Documentary "Jim Crow to Barack Obama"
When: Friday, July 15 at 7 p.m.
Where: Jacoby Arts Center, 627 East Broadway, Alton, IL 62002
More information.

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