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Open Letter: Srimoyee Mitra, Stamps Gallery Director

Dear Friends,

I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and strong during this extraordinary and challenging time. As the pandemic gripped our nation, radically transforming everyday lives, it laid bare the deep roots of racial health disparities and violence that continues to disenfranchise and dehumanize communities of color and LGBTQ+ people. The staff at Stamps Gallery, drew inspiration from the courageous act of one high school student, Darnella Frazier, that changed the world. We applaud Frazier’s fearlessness as she not only recorded the painful murder of George Floyd in the hands of the police, she shared it on Facebook for the world to witness the injustice. For me, it became clear that as a university we must offer multiple inclusive opportunities for listening to students' voices and learning from each other to cultivate an ecology of care through our exhibitions and public programs.

In this spirit I’m honored to announce our Fall 2020 program at Stamps Gallery that is based on the values of racial justice and gender equity. We’ve missed you since we closed in March and today, I’m pleased to welcome you back with five exhibitions which will be accompanied by a series of virtual public gatherings like talks, roundtables conversations and panels with students, artists and designers from U-M and beyond.

  • We kick off the season with Respond, Resist, Rethink: A Stamps Poster & Video Exhibition, an exhibition of powerful posters and moving videos by 20 students who share their visions for racial equity, justice and belonging in their communities. The works in this exhibition were selected by a wonderful team of students, faculty, and staff: Nicholas Dowgwillo, Eloise Janssen, Keesa V. Johnson, Francis Nunoo-Quarcoo, Endi Poskovic, Destini Riley, and Stamps Gallery staff.
  • Next, we are pleased to present a major solo exhibition of new work by Stamps Professor Heidi Kumao. Inspired, in part, by the courage, testimony, and experiences of women (like Christine Blasey Ford) who publicly report assault, harassment, or misconduct, Professor Kumao uses humour and personal and collective memories to create intimate and playful fabric works and video animations in Real and Imagined.
  • Reflecting on the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 when voting rights of ALL women were protected and enforced, AIGA Get Out the Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote brings together posters by 30 women designers from across the country. This exhibition includes works by two Stamps faculty members Audrey Bennett, Hannah Smotrich, and a recent alumni Beatriz Lozano.
  • Building on AIGA… I Wish To Say by Sheryl Oring, is a major socially engaged virtual performance organized in partnership with U-M’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester. In this project we invite students from University of Michigan and Wayne State University to share their message for the next president by signing up here. These messages will be typed on postcards virtually by student typists and sent to the White House after the inauguration next year.
  • We will finish up the year with the highly anticipated Undergraduate Juried Exhibition that is scheduled to open on November 12, 2020 in a “digital first” format as our students explore new ways of connecting with audiences during the pandemic.

These will be accompanied by insightful virtual public gatherings that highlight the voices and ideas explored by students, artists and designers in these exhibitions. Free and open to everyone, our virtual gatherings will become a vital platform through which we will interact with the wider public this semester.

We value the health and safety of our staff and students and therefore, following guidance from University administrators and public health officials in response to COVID-19, Stamps Gallery is unable to welcome the general public to our gallery at this time. Please review our COVID-19 Safety Policies here. During these difficult times we draw inspiration from the numerous artists, designers, writers, and poets who have responded to the emergencies before us. Renowned poet and educator Elizabeth Alexander reminds us that “Artists can imagine anything. Artists can dream another world. Artists can write a different ending.”1

Stamps Gallery stands strong in its commitment to social justice. Let us fear less and come together on our digital platform to engage, debate and share time together! I’m here to listen, learn, and envision. Share your ideas and questions with me at srimoyee@umich.edu.

Sincerely,

Srimoyee Mitra

Director, Stamps Gallery

 

1. Endless Grief: The Spectacle of ‘Black Bodies in Pain’ By Slamishah Tillet, The New York Times. Published June 19, 2020. Updated June 22,2020