Block Exhibit “Behold, Be Held” Explores Self-Care and Community
New outdoor exhibit explores themes of self-care, self-author and community with reproductions of works from the Block Museum collection.
The “Behold, Be Held” exhibit will be on display at three locations around Evanston until August 22: the fronts of The Block, the Ethel M. Barber Theater and the Youth and Opportunity United building on Church Street.
Curator Rikki Byrd is a third year PhD. candidate in Northwestern’s African-American Studies Department. His research interests include Black Studies, Performance Studies, Fashion History and Theory, and Art History of Visual Culture. Byrd developed “Behold, Be Held” during his tenure as 2020-2021 Block Museum of Art Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow.
She said the exhibit invites viewers to reflect, meditate, and ask themselves what they need right now. Inspired by the song “Plastic” by Moses Sumney, Byrd explored the idea of wanting something but not being able to have it. She said many people have felt this feeling throughout the pandemic.
“I was really interested in the subtle gestures,” Byrd said. “We missed times like hugging people, or we missed getting together in groups with people, but what are the intricacies of that? This is what I really wanted to explore. ”
A work, titled “Gossip” by Elizabeth Catlett, illustrates this focus on small gestures by depicting two figures seated side by side. Byrd said something as subtle as whispering to others in public, for example, is now impossible because of the pandemic.
In light of all the losses caused by the pandemic, Byrd said self-care is being encouraged more than ever. But taking care of yourself can be difficult in isolation, she said. Even in works with a single subject, Byrd was interested in how these characters make space.
“The works… have helped me reflect and meditate at home on the subtle things that sometimes we can’t even put a word to or even know how to articulate, but we’ve missed a lot over the past year or so. Byrd said.
The exhibit is in partnership with the organization Evanston Youth & Opportunity United, whose mission is to connect with the community and raise the voices of young people. The organization works specifically to bridge the opportunity gap among young people through services such as after-school programs, clinical counseling and family engagement.
The Bloc joined them in online programming throughout the pandemic, and during this conservation project, struck up a conversation on the group’s theme this semester: the school-to-prison pipeline.
Olivia Tsotsos, YOU’s leadership program manager said that art museums were historically inaccessible to many people. They said the partnership with Block connects the community to Northwestern’s private collection.
Students have learned through the partnership that they have the power to make their voices heard as artists, as young people and as leaders, Tostsos said.
“In the fall we were talking about fatphobia, colorism, hairism and European beauty standards, so (The Block) introduced us to a really great artist, Deborah Roberts, who focuses on all of that in her art.” , Tsotsos said. “It’s great to have that connection so that our students learn more about artists.”
The students selected two works for the exhibition, “Mother and Child” by Romare Bearden and “Two Worlds” by Margaret Burroughs. Both are available to view through the windows of the YOU building in Evanston.
Erin Northington is Susan and Stephen Wilson’s associate director of education and campus and community engagement at The Block, said during the museum’s first curatorial project with a community partner, the students examined the vision of Byrd gestures of care alongside the theme of their program, the school-prison pipeline. .
“What they did so beautifully was look at works in the collection that spoke about these two care ideas and where we’re looking for support,” said Northington. “But then put that into dialogue with the school-to-prison pipeline and maybe what it feels like when those resources aren’t there for you.”
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