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An Open Letter: Stamps Gallery Celebrates Black History and More

Dear Friends,

I hope that you are staying safe and strong during these historic times. Over the last 12 months, we witnessed in horror as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic compounded by systemic racism proliferated across the country threatening to stifle our polyphonic democracy. As staff at Stamps Gallery, we continued to investigate and focus on what we can do as curators and cultural workers: to unlearn and dismantle our society’s collective racist amnesia one exhibition, one performance, one discussion at a time. We draw inspiration from trailblazing artists like Stephanie Dinkins who boldly ask us to consider “The question is not only what injustices are you fighting against, but what do you in your heart of hearts want to create?” Liberating us from the difficult inequities of daily life, Dinkins instills hope into our present moment, beckoning us to act now. She reminds us in similar ways that the poet laureate Amanda Gorman did on January 20 that, “...there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Stamps Gallery stands firm in our commitment to foster vibrant and inclusive platforms for dialogue and inquiry, highlighting the works of artists and designers who explore new ways of making, thinking, and looking as they draw on knowledge systems outside the colonial and hegemonic canons. In this spirit, it is my deepest honor to introduce you to our winter program.

  • Over the last six months, my colleague, Outreach and Public Engagement Coordinator, Jennifer Junkermeier-Khan, searched the archives of the Stamps Schoolto learn more about the histories and contributions of Black art and design Alumni. Jennifer partnered with Stamps Gallery Public Engagement Student Assistant, Moteniola Ogundipe (BFA ‘23) to co-curate Story Word Sound Sway, an exhibition that brings together powerful and poetic works of twelve inter-generational alumni spanning five decades, from 1973 to 2019. I am deeply indebted to the artists in the exhibition: Carisa Bledsoe (BFA Interarts ’14), Schroeder Cherry (BFA ’76), Elshafei Dafalla (MFA ’08), Masimba Hwati (MFA ’19), Caleb Moss (BFA ’13), Senghor Reid (BFA ’99), Valencia Robin (MFA ’08), Yvette Rock (MFA ’99), Wes Taylor (BFA ’04), Levester Williams (BFA ’13), and Elizabeth Youngblood (BFA ’73). These artists use performance, movement, text, sound, and design to interrogate systems of oppression and interrupt the status quo. The exhibition will be accompanied by a digital catalogue which will be released in March 2021. For a deep and intimate view of the works in the exhibition, explore the work online.
  • To learn more about the artists in the exhibition and their work, join us virtually for Stamps @ Home: A Conversation with Artists from the Exhibition Story, Word, Sound, Sway on February 18, 6pm - 7.30pm.
  • This will be followed by a conversation with two renowned social practice artists who have used their performance-based projects to activate democracy and shed light on the biases within the criminal justice system. Radical Acts: A conversation with Sheryl Oring and Sherrill Roland on February 25, 1pm to 2pm.
  • The spring is a time of renewal and pride for the Stamps Community as we present the work of our MFA candidates at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, culminating in the 2021 MFA Exhibition, featuring work by Christine Bruening, Nathan Byrne, Rey Jeong, and Benjamin Winans. We are proud to play a role in the development of the exhibition with our students. Stay tuned for the virtual programs linked to the 2021 MFA Exhibition.

We value the health and safety of our staff and students and we are following guidance from U-M administrators and public health officials in response to COVID-19. As a result, Stamps Gallery is unable to welcome the general public to our gallery at this time. Currently, we are only open to University of Michigan faculty, staff, and students with a valid MCard on Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 pm-7 pm.

We have been hard at work as we try to make our virtual platform more robust and accessible. On our website, visitors can explore works in the exhibition,video recordings of our virtual events, and first-person narrative videos by the artists about their work in the exhibition. We are learning and growing each exhibition and program at a time. Please stay tuned and join us through our “exhibition announcement” mailing list for exciting news on our summer and fall 2021 exhibition program that includes a major solo exhibition with renowned transmedia artist Stephanie Dinkins.

Let’s stay in touch. I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

Srimoyee Mitra, Director, Stamps Gallery

Image: Yvette Rock (MFA ’99), "Community Conversations with Tenuous Equilibrium #1." 2016, Mixed media on wood, 16” x 20” x 1.5”.
This work is featured in Story, Word, Sound, Sway, on view online and in Stamps Gallery through February 28, 2021.