By MELISSA REESE
Salisbury University’s “Still They Persist” exhibit features protest art of the 2017 Women’s Marches, which was collected by the FemFour, a group of Cincinnati-based artists, collectors and curators.
The FemFour is made up of the art advocates Sara M. Vance, Calcagno Cullen, Maria Seda-Reeder and Jaime Thompson.
“Still They Persist” is a traveling exhibition that has also showcased at Wave Pool, Lexington Arts League and the Contemporary Arts Center. This is the first time this exhibition has come to a college campus.
Vance asked people via Facebook to send her their protest signs and art from the Women’s Marches. She began collecting protest art in her home gallery, but she realized that she did not have enough room to store all of the art, so she enlisted the help of curators Cullen, Seda-Reeder and Thompson.
The FemFour recognized that this exhibition is not traditional in that it is comprised of many posters, and a few of the pieces are not in pristine condition. Vance said she wanted to unify people through the art in the exhibition.
“Every piece in that exhibition is fine art, in my opinion,” Vance said. “It’s not just posters.”
Vance said she knew that the art in this collection would elicit strong opinions. She said she put this work out because she felt strongly about the message they sent.
“I like collecting art that makes people crazy,” Vance said.
Thompson said the art is about more than just what message the artists intended to convey. It is also about the meaning that the viewer creates with their life experiences and history.
“Artist intent isn’t everything,” Thompson said.
Seda-Reeder said she noticed an uptick in the number of people going to arts and crafts stores since the election of Donald Trump. She said people are feeling fatigued, and art is the only way they can truly express themselves.
“I think that art is a therapy that we all kind of gravitate to,” Seda-Reeder said. “It’s a coping mechanism.”
Seda-Reeder said this art is not simply political because it comes from the Women’s Marches. She believes that traditional contemporary art, such as paintings, are also political.
“There is no contemporary art that is not political,” Seda-Reeder said. “If it’s doing its job, it’s reflecting its time.”
Seda-Reeder said she wanted the art to be inclusive of all people, including people of color. She wanted marginalized people’s voices to be heard and understood.
“We wanted to be representational,” Seda-Reeder said. “These are voices that should be lifted.”
The “Still They Persist” exhibit runs until March 31. Fulton University Gallery’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Featured image taken by Melissa Reese.