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Art show on Black southern stories starts Saturday in Graham


Isaac Groves   | Times-News

“We were thinking about how to create change with the power of art,” said Southern Arts Movement (SAM) organizer Jen Baskett. “And what that looks like during a protest – I guess we’ll see.”

Baskett and fellow organizers are working with downtown Graham business owners to exhibit local artwork in their windows through August. The month-long exhibit called Silent No Longer will give people a chance to see work from about 10 artists in the area while staying a safe distance from their fellow potential COVID-19 carriers and get outside.

Highlighting Black artists and telling Black southern stories are at the heart of the exhibit, Baskett said, “to create a platform and voice for people that have historically been told to be quiet,” which is why it is called Silent No Longer. Nearly all the artists are Black, she said, after an open call for submissions in Instagram. Most come from the Triad; one comes from Raleigh.

Baskett says the exhibit is not itself political, though some of the pieces are. But the idea to hold it came out of the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in May, and the organizers are not shy about some of their views. The flyer for the exhibit includes an image of the Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse with “Silent no More” over its face.

But the exhibit is not in Graham because of the statue, Baskett said. Her two SAM co-founders, Rene Russell and Sarah Barham, live there so it’s close to home for them. That said, they are not shying away from the monument controversy and all the attention Graham is getting over it.

“(The exhibit) creates a conversation to be included in the conversation that’s happening in Graham,” she said.

The exhibit goes until Aug. 29 when there will be a block party and a chance to meet many of the artists. Over that time, Baskett expects there will be changes in where the pieces are displayed and she hopes more business owners will want to display some of them.

“Because it’s a month-long exhibit,” Baskett said, “we’re just going to say it’s going to evolve.”

This is the first exhibit like this Baskett has seen, but she hopes it will be the first of many. She imagines working with other art groups in other towns to put on something similar there.