VCUarts student Anqelique Scott created the Black Art Student Empowerment organization in response to the frustration by being the only Black student in many of her classes.
An art education and craft and material studies major, Scott said the lack of diversity was beginning to have strong effect on her work.
“I never made so much artwork about race before I came to VCU,” Scott said “Because I never needed to. But then, people were afraid of saying the wrong things, so all of my critiques were silent, as an artist, to not get feedback on your work is insane.”
Scott decided to to create to an organization dedicated to Black Art Student Empowerment. BASE started last August and has seen rapid growth through its first two semesters of existence.
“Our email list goes out to over 200 people,” Scott said, “And we have a loyal 30-50 members.”
That membership extends beyond VCU to members such as Victor Harper, a visual arts major at Virgina Union. Harper said being a part of B.A.S.E helps keep him focused.
“Everyone within the organization is trying to reach that next level,” he said, “And it really inspires me and drives me to keep going forward.”
As B.A.S.E has grown, so has its influence.
“We have frequent conversations with the dean and the department chairs about what we can do to make the school more diverse,” Scott said.
The organization had been looking for a way to work with Art 180, a local non-profit that uses art as an outreach tool to help area youth. When Art180 reached out to B.A.S.E about filling a March hole in their schedule, Scott said they leaped at the opportunity.
Scott said what’s cool about Art180 is that they have that direct connection to the young artist population, and since March is Women’s History Month, B.A.S.E decided to do a gallery to honor women.
“We wanted to celebrate women as women, and just uplift that,” Scott said.
The resulting event was the recently-concluded “HERstory: A Woman’s Worth” exhibition at Art180’s ATLAS gallery.
Seven B.A.S.E artists displayed pieces dedicated to women, in mediums ranging from ceramics and painting, to illustration, metalwork and performance.
Pieces included a piece entitled “Her Flower”, a commentary on the sexual oppression of women by Comm Arts student Raymond Barry.
Victor Harper showcased “My Prototype,” a piece that depicts his ideal women and he said he felt compelled to include it in this particular exhibition.
“I just wanted to be a part of the movement that they were speaking to about women and cultural identity,” Harper said.
During the run of the exhibition, B.A.S.E also held an artist talk, which gave the students a chance to discuss their work in a professional setting, something that is not normally offered through their coursework.
“We had freshman in the show, which is something they hadn’t even learned to do,“ Scott said, “So it was great way of breaking out of their shell.”
Scott said she hopes that B.A.S.E’s connection with Art180 will help them to combat a powerful stigma within the Black community.
“When you say ‘I want to be an artist’ the community says ‘No!,’ and we want to show them that you can do this, and you can make this a career and you won’t be a starving artist,” Scott said.
Music Desk, Josh Buck
I’m an almost annoyingly outspoken feminist who loves writing about gender and race in mainstream art. I once had to be almost physically removed from Disneyland because my friends said it’s not cool to be the very last person in the park. I can’t wait to graduate in the spring so I can point my car West with no money and no plan, and spend months seeing the country, writing and meeting people.
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