New integrated art and social science exhibit highlights WNC African-American stories and data

Press release from UNC Asheville:

On September 6, UNC Asheville, the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA) and partners will launch a new exhibit, Black in Black on Black: Making the Invisible Visible in the John Cram Partner Gallery at the Center for Craft. The new exhibit is a visual conversation about the lives and contributions of Black/African American communities in Western North Carolina (WNC).

Bringing together stunning artwork and visual design by WNC-based artists Ann Miller Woodford, Ronda Birtha, Viola Spells, and Reggie Tidwell, with social science data and stories, this exhibit invites audiences into an often invisible history of our region. As Woodford states, “My emphasis has been on people who have dedicated their lives to humanity, but have been overlooked, ignored, and often forgotten.”

Deeply personal art is integrated with charts and quotes from the Heart of Health: Race, Place, and Faith in Western North Carolina project. Heart of Health is a three-year community-participatory research study that seeks to better understand the role and impact of race and racism on health through secondary data analyses and interviews. It is co-led by researchers from UNC Asheville, ABIPA, Sparrow Research, and community partners from around WNC.

“One of our first findings was that much of the data on African Americans and drivers of health and inequities, for example, land and business ownership, have been suppressed due to small populations or other reasons. This collaborative research seeks to highlight and encourage responsible collection and use of data and stories,” said Ameena Batada, UNC Asheville professor of health and wellness and one of the co-leads on the Heart of Health project.

Visitors to the exhibit, both in-person and online, are invited to a multisensory and interactive experience, including paintings, photographs, narrative text, quotes and graphics, sculptural pieces, digital data visualization, and music. The exhibit also invites visitors to learn about the ways in which African Americans and others in WNC are working to reduce racism and build community through grassroots and organizational efforts.

JéWana Grier McEachin, executive director of ABIPA, co-lead on the Heart of Health project, and member of exhibit partner The LINKS Incorporated, remarked, “The gathering of data and translation of research through Black in Black on Black has been influenced by the connections of the Artists, WNC Research Team and Community Advisory Board. This sort of six degrees of separation between the research exhibit and active change agents through Organizations in Western North Carolina is impactful and invaluable.”

Black in Black on Black: Making the Invisible Visible will be up in the John Cram Partner Gallery at the Center for Craft at 67 Broadway Street in Asheville, NC, from September 6, 2021 through January 7, 2021, and a virtual tour soon online. Support for this project was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program. Interdisciplinary Research Leaders is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation led by the University of Minnesota. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation or the University of Minnesota.

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