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6 St. Louis Visual Artists Embody The City's 'Creative Renaissance' In Griot Exhibit

032521_provided_#InTheCity Fellowship.jpg
Provided by De Nichols
The six visual artists part of the #InTheCity fellowship include: Shabez Jamal, Câmara Thomas, Nyara Williams, Tiff Sutton, Alana Marie and Collin Elliott.

Last spring would have marked the culmination of the inaugural #InTheCity Visual Arts Fellowship. Six St. Louis artists were ready to display their works in north St. Louis’ Griot Museum of Black History and Culture and head to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The fellowship is part of the Commonwealth Project at Harvard University, founded by local changemaker Kareem "Tef Poe" Jackson and Harvard professor (and Missouri native) Walter Johnson. It’s modeled as a new way for universities to engage with social problems through service and collaboration, with a special focus on St. Louis.

The pandemic impacted those plans, but the exhibit is making a virtual comeback this Friday under the curation of St. Louis artist and designer De Nichols. The Griot also launched its new website Thursday, just ahead of the show’s debut.

As part of In the City: Memories of Black Presence, the six artists showcasing work are Shabez Jamal, Câmara Thomas, Nyara Williams, Tiff Sutton, Alana Marie and Collin Elliott.

They created their projects in response to one essential question: “What is St. Louis to you?”

“To them, St. Louis is an opportunity for rediscovery; St. Louis is a bedrock of creating new visions of what's possible. But St. Louis is also a city that is still reckoning with its past," Nichols said. "And [the artists] were not shy of putting that front and center, especially as artists who are setting forth such great trajectories for a creative renaissance that’s unveiling itself in the city."

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Nichols joined host Sarah Fenske, along with the Griot’s director Lois Conley, to share more details about the exhibit.

The Griot is a pillar in the community as the city’s first Black-owned museum — and it celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Conley explained that the #InTheCity exhibit builds off the Griot’s dedication to preserving and presenting Black culture and history.

“Reaching out to these artists was a way to look at a whole new way for the Griot to present its history, but also to make those important connections that allow the input from a new group of people and with a new perspective,” she said.

“I considered it a coup that we were able to pull this off at this point in our history.”

In addition to celebrating the virtual exhibit, the Griot just last week began allowing in-person visits to the museum after a year of closure.

Related event

What: In the City: Memories of Black Presence
When: 6 p.m. Friday, March 26, 2021
Where: RSVP online

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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