The artwork of fifty students — ranging from drawings, paintings and sculptures to collages, poems, photography — were put on display Nov. 5 at Charcoal Magazine’s Anniversary Exhibition Showcase in the Howard Thurman Center.
The publication, founded in 2017, is dedicated to highlighting art by people of color. The showcase did just that, especially those who are hesitant to call themselves artists, said Creative Director Gauri Nema.
“Charcoal is home to so many creatives who aren’t going into creative work professionally,” said Nema, a junior in the College of Communication. “[But] we’re all creating very worthwhile art that deserves to be seen.”
Community Relations Director Maria Nino-Suastegui said the magazine’s fifth year anniversary is a big milestone. They aimed to make the event not just a gallery, but a “showcase,” inviting art submissions across all mediums.
“[We made] sure that the way we worded things was very intentional and welcoming to people … so that when people looked at our application, they didn’t think that the words were too niche, and then suddenly they got scared to apply,” said Nino-Suastegui, a junior in COM. “At the end of the day, it’s for them.”
Nino-Suastegui, who helped organize the event, said she also submitted work she had done on San Marcos, a small rural town in Mexico, where her family is from.
“The town that my parents come from is super small and very unheard of, but it has a really deep history. It has a lot of Afro-Mexican heritage there, which has been widely ignored,” Nino-Suastegui said. “But even just sharing it with this community … it makes me feel proud and I’m doing a little bit to bring attention to that history … and the life of the people there.”
Sushmita Udoshi, a junior in COM, said she submitted a painting, a smaller recreation of a painting made by her great uncle from India, who rarely showed his artwork to people. She said she worked on the piece at a weekly arts and crafts hosted by Charcoal.
“He used to destroy [his paintings] after he made it,” Udoshi said. “After he passed away, my family had gone into his house and found his unfinished paintings and drawings.”
Udoshi said it’s important to have this channel to write, tell stories and take photographs because “there’s a lot of experiences that specifically only people of color go through.”
Izzy Yap, a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said one of the photos they submitted was from a previous Charcoal photoshoot, which used imagery and composition that were prominent during the Renaissance era, but “reclaiming it for people of color.”
“When people of color are in a space that’s not predominantly people of color, you have this fear of censoring your art, making sure that it’s palatable to people, but in a space like Charcoal, you don’t have to worry about that,” Yap said.
Yap said the space gives people the freedom to make their art whatever they want it to be.
“It can be the celebration of Black women, it can be the celebration of nonbinary individuals, it can be queer, it can be colorful,” she said. “There’s no one in this space that is going to ‘other’ you for that experience.”
Uni Valdivieso Wooldridge, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a stylist for Charcoal, said she appreciates how Charcoal invites people of color to both talk about issues they face and serve as a creative outlet.
“Creativity isn’t always encouraged everywhere, especially among all majors or all different kinds of people.” Wooldridge said. “You meet so many people from different places … a lot of people are from Atlanta [and] have very different experiences to me … but we can also relate on another level.”
Cassie James, a sophomore in the College of General Studies who attended the exhibition, said it “is really indicative of the diversity here on campus.”
“It does a really great job of showcasing how our community comes together and is able to bring all of our cultures into a melting pot and showcase that to the rest of the BU community,” she said.
Nino-Suastegui said lots of the planning went into deciding on the location, layout and lighting in order to make the event special for both the artists and those viewing the gallery.
“It was just really touching to see people really take time to appreciate their own and each other’s work and I think that that made me feel like everything was worth it,” she said.
Nema said the publication — which is centered around artists of color — is “radical” at BU.
“[People of color] being that comfortable around each other also allows for us to create better art, art that’s authentic to the stories we’ve lived,” said Nema. “Charcoal just continues to feed that need.”