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I think it’s a very crucial time where we need to hear from the

public and less about the public.

- Hank Willis Thomas

Four years ago, the JSMA's Education department created an annual program to engage UO students in conversations about race, identity, representation, and misrepresentation. The goal was to provide students with a space to create art and engage in dialogue about their experiences and fears as they navigate their lives as young adults. The projects begin with a conversation, then integrating art production and writing as part of the process before the program culminates in an exhibition.

This year's project, Hear My Voice, was led and curated by UO art students Kayla Lockwood (2022, BFA) Sam Berry (2023, BFA) and Malik Lovette (2024, M.IArch). The exhibition documents multiple community conversations with UO students, primarily students of color, and documents their experiences surrounding stereotyping with digital Spectrogram prints of their voices. The project team focused on empowering and representing each participants' authentic view of their identity with the critical and reflective dispositions that accompany their personal development.

I was drawn to working with the JSMA for its contribution to the education of UO students by helping them become culturally competent global citizens. I was particularly drawn to the museum’s guiding principle of providing art education programs and collaborative opportunities to make the museum central to learning and building diverse audiences. I think this guiding principle is important to address as all academic institutions should be aware of their constituents and should engage in museum practices that allow access, inclusion, and representation of their constituents. I see the Community Conversations program at the JSMA as a great opportunity for the student constituents to be involved in the development of a creative and vocalized student community within the institution. This type of programming is especially needed within academic museums as exhibitions and collections should reflect the academic interests of the institution it resides in as well as its student community by creating a space for student voices to be elevated and represented.

From this experience of leading a series of workshops for student peers to openly express their voice and values, I found it to be important for students to engage in non-confrontational dialogue and artistic expression within a positive framework that fosters empathy and brings awareness of implicit biases. I also thought it was important to shift the exhibition’s focus to amplifying the literal voices of students as it was beneficial for students to practice vocal empowerment and to find their social and civic voices, allowing students to be recognized for beyond their academic achievements within the institution.

This student exhibition was inspired by Hank Willis Thomas’s “Truth Booth”, an inflated speech bubble that invites visitors to share their thoughts with a video camera. The portable, inflatable “Truth Booth” embarked on multiple tours including a world tour in 2011 run by Cause Collective (Thomas, Ryan Alexiev, Jim Ricks, and Will Sylvester) and an epic coast-to-coast road trip during the 2016 election season. I was particularly inspired by Thomas’s purpose of this project, believing that it’s a crucial time where people need to hear from the public and less about the public as the “Truth Booth” provided a platform to elevate people’s voices and for people to speak in their own terms about issues that are important. I thought this was a profound declaration of empowering and reclaiming the social and civic voices of all citizens. Therefore, I collaborated with student peers to practice vocal empowerment and to find their social and civic voices through storytelling and non-confrontational dialogue.

I was also inspired to provide a stepping stone for future student-led exhibitions to be created by students, for students. Although the main purpose of portrait photography is to capture the essence of the model’s natural state and personality as the subject, the practice of portrait photography raises questions about the power dynamics between the photographer and model. To challenge the control of the environment and the construction of the model’s costume, I pulled away from photographic practices for this exhibition by recording student stories and converting them to spectrogram prints. This transition of control from curator/artist to students is not truly perfect but allows student participation to have more control over the narrative and works produced within the exhibition. I say that this transition isn’t truly perfect as I had to convert the audio recordings to spectrogram prints on behalf of students. However, the prints were produced by the students’ individual stories and voices allowing them to have more control over how they want to vocally express themselves and their stories. I hope this transition will inspire future student curators in providing a space for students to express their self-identity and to create their own individual works for future student exhibitions at the JSMA.

- Kayla Lockwood, Lead Student Curator

For the 4th year in a row, the JSMA has provided a series of workshops for UO students focusing on building community and engagement through the arts. These Community Conversations are held as a museum program and center around creating a space

This year’s conversations were facilitated by Kayla Lockwood who has been on staff as a student employee and co-curated the 2021 exhibition, I am More Than Who You See. The work on display in this current exhibition illustrates a digital illustration of each student’s narrative.

This project represents the JSMA’s mission to create a space for students to connect with one another, to experience museums as agents of change and learn more about the world around us through the arts.

- Lisa Abia-Smith, JSMA Director of Education



To access these student stories, visit Tech Aesthetic's digital archive of the Hear My Voice exhibition. Follow Tech Aesthetic on Instagram for updates and more information.

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