Students entering the Green Bean for their daily dose of caffeine this February will immediately notice the vibrant artwork displayed across the walls. Wire chains suspend a trifold board collaged with newspaper articles, and two monochrome portraits of young girls involved in the Civil Rights movement command attention from the back wall. The emancipation-themed installation is a first-time collaborative effort between the Green Bean, the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) and the Black Student Alliance (BSA) to celebrate Black History Month.
According to OCE Program Manager Eleni Duret (senior), the installation expands upon Occidental’s yearly theme: emancipation. Throughout the school year, various departments will be hosting emancipation-related lectures and discussion panels.
Although art classes were notified about the event, the organizers wanted to open the process up to the entire student body, not just those enrolled in art classes, according to Sarah Butzow (senior), the Programming and Customer Experience Manager for the Green Bean. Submitting artwork was also not limited to students; Assistant Dean for Community Service Ella Turenne submitted a painting that she did in college.
According to the event organizers, the work did not necessarily need to be created with the emancipation theme in mind; they were open to interpretive works. Bebe Terino’s (first-year) painting, for example, explores the theme from a unique angle. Terino’s piece consists of a sequence of four painted canvases showing the environmental damage caused by climate change. The first image depicts coral reefs as one might imagine them today, while the last illustrates palm trees submerged underwater.
“My first painting was for global warming awareness,” Terino said. “My aim was to bring attention to the rapid pace that our planet is transforming into an entirely different place … This issue is similar to many social justice issues, such as the civil rights movement, because it largely depends on social awareness and activism to bring about change.”
Eva Schifini (sophomore) submitted an abstract piece to the installation. Her work features black lines running diagonally across a white canvas with colorful dots in the center. According to Schifini, the various colors represent different points in the emancipation process.
“It conveys a timeline in the way it’s oriented and the placement of the colored dots is a turning point in the timeline,” Schifini said. “Red represents struggle, green is growth, yellow is hope and blue is sorrow.”
The organizations hosted an event Friday on the Branca Patio and in the Green Bean celebrating the installation.
Performers from RAW Records, African Ivy and spoken word poets were invited to create a multi-sensory experience.
“We wanted to add a space for the vocal, musical, verbal component of art—the art that doesn’t have a physical way to hang on a wall—and have a way to honor those as well,” Butzow said.
In addition to showcasing student performances, the event was meant to give students the opportunity to discuss the artwork and meet the artists. Tables covered in butcher paper with various prompts on emancipation allowed students to write their opinions and express themselves freely.
“The Green Bean has gotten a lot of positive feedback about [the installation] and people have been really excited about it,” Butzow said. “I think this is special because it’s student artwork so it reflects who we are as a campus.”
The artwork will be on display until the end of February.