Blaque Cleveland: My latest visit to the CSU Galleries

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, I visited the Galleries at CSU for the first time this spring semester. Stepping out of the frigid cold, snowflakes clinging to my eyelashes, I was greeted by gallery attendant, Tenzin Lucas.

Lucas, an Art History major, gave me some insight into the life of a student worker in an art gallery. Having discovered the galleries his freshman year of school because of a class, Lucas loved it, and therefore, it seemed a logical fit for an on-campus job.

His primary duties include welcoming visitors as they come in and providing them with information on the Galleries. However, in between exhibits, Lucas gets the experience of swapping out the artwork and the installation process- getting to see the behind-the-scenes of the exhibit before it is unveiled to the public.

Lucas, reflecting on his goals for the job, stated, “I like supporting the arts and being involved on campus, so that’s something I want to continue doing.”

After chatting for a bit, I moved on to the main reason I was at the galleries that day- to view the current exhibit, “Blaque Cleveland.” Having opened on Jan. 17, this exhibit features the work of four different artists, each in their own medium.

The first pieces in the exhibit are oil on canvas works by Kiara Booker. These paintings are vibrant and seem to shimmer in the right light. The subjects of her works are all captivating in their own way, each clearly with a story and personality unique to them.

Next, if you are a frequenter of the Galleries, you may notice the second room looking sparse. While no work is displayed in this part of the space, another wall was added dividing the center of the room. The galleries have hopes of using this extra wall hanging space to display more work in the future, but in the meantime, it holds a projector to display images by photographer Daivon Shepherd as part of the current exhibit.

Continuing into the back room of the galleries, the next set of pieces the viewer stumbles upon are the collage works of Dakarai Akil. They stand out from most art exhibits due to their three-dimensionality. Images are juxtaposed over one another with contrasting themes, making for some very interesting outcomes that get the viewer’s mind trying to connect the different images.

Farthest back in the galleries is the paintings by Isaiah Williams. These acrylic on canvas works approach their subject with more of an existential take. These were a personal favorite of mine as their abstractness requires the viewer to do some more interpretation on their end.

Overall, I would say that the main thing to keep in mind with this exhibit is quality over quantity. This exhibit is not as full, in terms of quantity, as some past exhibits, like the over 100 works of last semester’s exhibit, Best Served Cold. However, it holds a wealth of diverse experiences in each work. I pride the Galleries in bringing meaningful art to the community.

The exhibit has a clear intention, as stated in the introduction upon entrance:

“What I want viewers to take away from this exhibit is the beauty in the diversity of Blacks, seeing us through several lenses as varied mediums. I also invite you to be open-minded and listen to the varied experiences that are presented to you without prescribing to the whole. Above all, remember that the Black identity is not one size fits all.”

Just in time for Black History Month, “Blaque Cleveland” will be on display for the entirety of February, as well as into the first half of March, closing on the 19th. The CSU Galleries is located at 1307 Euclid Avenue, and is open to the public Tuesday thru Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Galleries is also continuing their Thursday night art talks this semester. They will have three separate events featuring the artists of the exhibit. The first event, to take place on Feb. 17, will feature Daivon Shepherd and Isaiah Williams. Next, Kiara Booker on March 3. The final art talk for the exhibit will feature the exhibit’s curator, Brenden Whitt, on March 17.

Following the exhibit of “Blaque Cleveland” the Galleries will present their annual student exhibit in May. For more information on the Galleries, upcoming exhibits, and events, please visit their webpage.

Author: Trinity Stevens

Trinity Stevens is a current student at Cleveland State University majoring in Dance in Community, minoring in Theatre Studies, and pursuing a certificate in Arts Management.