Paducah’s Yeiser Art Center is taking strides to stage a first-of-its-kind exhibit for the local gallery, issuing a call for works by Black and Indigenous artists or any artists of color in a release Tuesday.
The as yet unnamed exhibition, executive director Lexie Millikan told the Sun, is a response to the “anti-racism movement” that has swept the area, state and the country in recent weeks.
“We want to be able to give a platform to everyone in our community, but especially those that are underrepresented,” Millikan said, noting that the Yeiser’s programming hasn’t always been as diverse as it could have been. “We want to make an effort to move forward in a more positive direction and make sure that we’re giving opportunities to everyone.”
The proposed exhibition is open to any artists of color working in any medium that live within 150 miles of Paducah with the deadline to apply falling on July 15 and the exhibition itself running from Aug. 1 until Sept. 19. For more information and guidelines for submission, visit www.yeiserartcenter.org.
Millikan will be co-curating the works alongside Aida Vega and Tanya Gadbaw-Neitzke.
Vega, a recently appointed board member at the Yeiser Art Center, hopes that this exhibit can help connect people of all kinds through the artwork on display.
“We need to move forward with greater inclusion for artists of color and bridge that gap between African American communities and other people of color in the arts community of Paducah,” Vega told the Sun. “We’re bringing all of these different people with different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds together in one safe space, and that’s what’s most important about this (exhibit).”
Gadbaw-Neitzke, a painting and First Year Experience instructor with the West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Paducah School of Art and Design, feels that this exhibit will “help continue the nationwide conversation we are having about diversity right now.”
“I think it is important for traditionally marginalized people to share their voice, and this exhibit will provide that opportunity,” she said.
Without a theme attached to the exhibit, Millikan didn’t want to be restrictive about the content of the works.
“We didn’t want to require that artists submit work only about social justice issues because that’s not necessarily what everyone is working on or makes artwork about and that’s OK, too,” she said. “It can be any kind of concept and any medium of artwork and hopefully in the future we’ll work on exhibitions that are themed around social justice and similar movements.”
Vega is hoping for emotionally evocative works, and Gadbaw-Neitzke is on a similar wavelength.
“I am eagerly awaiting for the art pieces to come in and can’t wait to see the wide variety of works that we will get,” the PSAD instructor said. “Overall, when its comes to art, I love when an artist’s passion is evident in their work. While I can’t say what I will specifically be looking for, I will be open to everything we receive.”
Millikan hopes that this is just the beginning of this sort of exhibit for the local art institution.
“These kinds of exhibition need to be the norm for us,” she said. “In order to make everyone feel welcome (here), we have to do more of these kinds of exhibitions where we reach out to other communities that might not always feel welcome there. So it’s like we’re putting the responsibility on ourselves to follow through with that.”