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Westfield State holds art and photography exhibits in honor of Black History Month

Unity painting\
In honor of Black His/Herstory Month, Westfield State University will host two art exhibits:  “Contemporary Directions: Niger to Afro Futurism” and “Working the Edge.” There will be an artist’s reception for “Contemporary Directions” on Wednesday, February 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Arno Maris Art Gallery located on the second floor of the Ely Campus Center. The exhibit, which features the artwork of Gerardo Castro, Andrae Green, Ghislaine Sabiti, and Toby Sisson, will run until February 25.

There will be an artist’s reception for “Working the Edge” on Thursday, February 2 at 11:15 a.m. in the Emilee Dawn Gagnon Event Space on the first floor of the Ely Library. The exhibit features photography from photojournalist Charter Weeks depicting black history and culture both in the U.S. and in Africa.

Gerardo Castro
Gerardo Castro is a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico. He earned his Master of Fine Arts in painting from the Pratt Institute in New York and he currently teaches in the art department at New Jersey City University. He is also organizing a public art experience titled “The Lightbulb Project” in which more than 100 artists collaborated to create lightbulb statues on display in the city of Newburgh, NY.

His contributing artwork features a steel cut-out silhouette of his body, which he ignited to symbolically burn his body onto paper. The pieces were influenced by his knowledge of indigenous cultures and Afro-Cuban/Caribbean religions and spirituality.

“Through simple forms and a straightforward presentation, I strive to present the viewer with powerful and dignified images layered with a color so rich that they see beyond the surface and examine all that lies within a color’s substance,” Castro said in his artist statement.

Andrae Green
Andrae Green is a Springfield, Mass. resident and currently teaches at the Academy at Charlemont. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in painting from the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the New York Academy of Art. His artwork has been a part of exhibitions both locally and globally and he represented the U.S. at the Carrousel Du Louvre in Paris, France.

Ghislaine Sabiti
Ghislaine Sabiti is an interdisciplinary Congolese-born artist who was raised in France and is now based in New York. Her artwork has been displayed in both solo and group exhibitions in New York and France. She has taught art at several different schools, most recently at the Harlem School of the Arts  in New York.

“My works develop projects between communities and collecting fractured narratives for social change through identity,” Sabiti said in her artist’s statement. “My experiences of inter and cross-continental migrations developed my sensibility to cross-interculturalism and to a plurality of language  which I explore in my interest to sew and paint different cultures, everyday people, live model drawing, and landscapes with the assistance of my two favorite tools: the sewing needles and energetic bold brushstrokes.”

Toby Sisson
Toby Sisson is an associate professor and director of the Studio Art Program at Clark University in Worcester. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, MN and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  She has received numerous awards and recognition for her artwork and teaching and her artwork is displayed across the country and internationally.

“I value the associative power of abstract images for their capacity to suggest complex ideas with basic shapes and colors,” Sisson said in her artist statement. “Black’s strong correlation with solemnity, mystery, and race is an evocative visual tool. I see obvious parallels in the way people interact across cultural difference, which in turn drives the graphic nature of my compositions.”

Working the Edge
Charter Weeks has worked as a documentary photographer for nearly 50 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in art from the University of New Hampshire. He has photographed in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America as well as the U.S. and his work has been exhibited in galleries around country. He is currently working with North Carolina writer Keith Flynn to document the effects of this recession on an area of Appalachia around Asheville, North Carolina.

“One of the important aspects of photography is its ability to keep yesterday safe for tomorrow,” Weeks said in his artist statement. “I would like to believe that my work will be a window into my generational experience for someone in the future as surely as those who came before me have made real the world they inhabited.”

Both of the exhibits are free and open to the public. Regular hours for the Arno Maris Art Gallery are Tuesday- Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit