Precious Musa, a second year graduate student completing her MFA in poetry, received a Community Partnership Grant in May from the Gephardt Institute to curate “Listen Look: A Reconciliatory Journey Through Black Grief and Joy”, taking place on February 20th 2021 from 3-5pm CST. The multi-media art exhibition centers Black St. Louis artists grappling with the complex gravities of grief and joy in their lives, and invites its audience members to engage in an intense period of looking at and listening to incidents of racial trauma and racial triumph. The intention, Precious explains, is to convert the looking into an act of witnessing.
“For me, the biggest component of this project was building a community with St. Louis artists,” Precious reflects. When she began virtually meeting with a team of nine local artists in June, Precious recognized that “art is such a way forward in these really really tumultuous times” as Americans endure both a global pandemic and “continue to navigate a racial pandemic.” Despite these seemingly insurmountable hurtles, the responsibility she feels “to the community—to uplifting Blackness and thinking about it in a complex manner—” prevails.
Although “Listen Look: A Reconciliatory Journey Through Black Grief and Joy” originally focused on creating a physical, congregative space where conversations about communal action and healing could occur, COVID-19 safety precautions compelled Precious to adjust her vision. Although she planned to display the exhibition work at The Griot Museum of Black History, Precious remained uncertain whether the exhibition would be conducted virtually or in-person. The exhibit is now confirmed to be virtual.
In her effort to visually mirror the disruptive force of Black grief and joy, Precious spoke with local community organizers, brainstorming ways to sustain the installation’s impact after the show ends. De Nichols, a Ferguson activist and social practice artist, suggested that she partner with the InPower Institute’s Black Healers Collective and coordinate a healing workshop for the artists after the exhibition. Precious is looking forward to organizing the workshop—especially since she understands how being “a part of this installation and thinking through these heavy emotions can be traumatic.” She also plans on creating a booklet featuring the installation work for audience members to take home; “just by being in somebody’s physical space is a reminder—it can act a small disruption to their everyday.”
“The goal is for people to leave the exhibition altered, charged with a progressive energy from encountering these artists’ work and stories. The goal is to urge St. Louis community members to enter into dialogue with those who they have no shared experiences with. The goal is for those conversations to ripple outwards, to combine with other relevant dialogues, and to convert complacent onlookers into diligent witnesses.”
To attend the virtual exhibition, register here.
The Gephardt Institute is supporting Precious to develop, implement, and evaluate her exhibition. Are you interested in applying for a Civic Engagement Fund Grant? Click here to learn more about our St. Louis Project Grants, Course Development Grants, and a Community Partnership Mini Grants.