Norman Rea Gallery are proud to present: Change.
Museums and galleries have a huge part to play in addressing historic oppression and institutional racism. As a voluntary, student-run not-for-profit gallery, our core aim is to provide opportunities for budding curators; we have a responsibility to address race from the beginning of our careers. We have a responsibility to instill, in these student curators, a sense of social responsibility and agency.
As our first digital exhibition and our first exhibition to be held outside of the University of York’s term times, “Change” aims to serve as a permanent resource for those wishing to educate themselves as well as an illustration of artistic responses to racial injustices. Exhibiting artists have provided links and quotes relating to their personal experiences and responses not just to the Black Lives Matter movement, but to racism and race-related injustices as a whole.
3 years ago, figures positioned our University’s student body as 87% white,** and as their student-run gallery; the Norman Rea failed to respond at the time. This exhibition has been created in response to the urgency of the current Black Lives Matter movement, and as a result of the newly elected committee’s aims to be more representative. We have begun an active mission to tackle diversity, equality and true representation on campus. Our committee - made up of students - is hugely diverse, in race, age, subject of study and cultural background; we owe it to our members and ourselves to represent our reality and the reality of others, and we will work towards better representation and to widen the expanse of artists we represent throughout the coming year.
This is not a one-off performative exhibition, rather a marked statement that from this point forward, we have made a commitment towards long lasting change within the way we function as a gallery. Alongside this exhibition the Norman Rea Gallery is actively meeting with the University of York, with a call to action to support POC artists within the University’s Art Collection. This collection contains a very small percentage of artworks created by POC. Our events throughout the year - available to our members - will explore ideas of race within the art world and beyond. We will also be fundraising throughout the year for BLM charities. It is important that we, as a gallery, consider our role and impact in this conversation, while utilising our platform.
Warning: Mentions of racism, violence, murder, police brutality.
Disclaimer: The content of this exhibition reflects its sensitive subject matter. Some semi-violent imagery. Viewer discretion advised.
Curation is a very serious responsibility and we have tried our best to ensure that every piece included supports, rather than detracts, from the wider movement. We are aiming to educate and give a platform to the voice of black artists. As much of the movement surrounds violence, some artistic responses are correspondingly violent. We do not want to glorify violence (which can be emotionally difficult, dehumanising as well as distracting from the movement) but we also do not want to glamorise or gloss over the topic. This is a sensitive and serious subject matter and the pieces chosen reflect that. We do not want to silence the voices of black artists (in how they have chosen to express themselves) but also have a duty to curate responsibly. This is a fine line and we hope we handled it appropriately.
*POC = Person/People of Colour
‘POC’ is a blanket term for everyone who is not white, while we recognise blanket terms can be problematic, ‘POC’ was coined by people of colour activity fighting racial oppression, and therefore has its roots in solidarity and anti-racist movements. We perceived it as the most appropriate term as of 2020/21.
**Statistics from HESA, 2016/17.