Student Curators on Their Black History Month Exhibition

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For Black History Month, Black FIT students created an exhibition that expressed their perspective in Out of Body or Out of Place? The exhibition includes visual depictions of intense racial dysmorphia, impostor syndrome, and ostracism. The curators were Rukaiah (Ruki) El, Fine Arts ’24 (with a double minor in Art History and African American & Africana Studies) and Kira Cunningham, Fashion Design ’25, both members of the Black Student Union. El is the Director of Digital Media/PR for the BSU and Cunningham is the Treasurer.

Newsroom recently sat down with El and Cunningham to talk about this important show, and how it is an opportunity for those who do not fall under a Black identity to understand the importance of marginalized groups coming together to contribute to a diverse and inclusive community.

The exhibition is on view at Gallery FIT at The Museum at FIT through February 12. It is is free and open to the public.

Can you share your thoughts on the exhibition overall?

Rukaiah (Ruki) El: I’m immensely proud of this exhibition and what it’s turned out to be. Kira and I wanted to give Black visual and fine artists at FIT the opportunity to have their work showcased on campus for Black History Month. We’ve been planning it out since October 2022, and it’s been quite the experience.

Kira Cunningham: I am absolutely in love with the way the exhibition turned out. The theme of the exhibition is one that I have related with and felt through my entire educational journey. From elementary (school) up until now I have experienced the feeling of being out of place as the only Black person in a classroom and often being the only minority in the classroom.

I truly hope that this exhibition will aid in the Black Student Union’s efforts of unifying and amplifying Black voices on campus, because the only way to help push enrollment of Black students on campus is to provide a community as well as a voice for Black students on our campus.

What can visitors expect when they see the exhibition?

RE: You can expect compelling narratives and intriguing visual interpretations of what it’s like to feel out of your own body, or feel out of place as a Black person, and as the only minority in a room. There are paintings, sculptures, graphic designs, even a cinematic video from 20 students and professors in the exhibition. I want people to read the descriptions of all pieces, and understand that though we’ve made progress as a nation in overcoming racism, there are challenges to be faced. I want non-POCs to learn about the subtle words and actions they may make towards Black community, and the severity of the accumulated microaggressions and acts of isolation. Though more importantly, I want a space for other Black people to feel safe in. I hope they are able to resonate with the art, and find solace, at least to some extent, while reading the stories of our amazing artists.

KC: This exhibition shares each individual artist’s experience of being othered in academic spaces and in life. I feel as though this experience is translated well with the artwork selected for display and my hope is that this exhibition not only informs and helps to push us away from this narrative but to also let people in these situations know that they are not alone.

Are there pieces in the show that you think best speak to the main themes of the exhibition? If so, which ones, and why?

KC: For me personally I resonate with “Watch” by Xandria Crosland the most. Her piece provides a poster as well as a video that I believe fully captures the feeling and realization that comes with being the only Black person in a room.

RE: One of our artists, Val Daughtrey, has art pieces that are interactive via augmented reality (AR)! Make sure to download the Artvive to bring his works to life and enjoy the full experience!

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