West Orange Arts Center presents hybrid ‘Black Lives Matter’ art experience

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Arts Council presents to the community the art for social change virtual online exhibit and an in-person gallery show “Black Lives Matter: For Justice, For Equality, For Liberty!” This show is curated by Maria Estrela and Carol T. Jenkins, both women of color from Essex County.

The exhibit will debut June 5 on the West Orange Arts Council website at www.woarts.org and will be open for in-person visits at the West Orange Arts Center, 551 Valley Road, through July 31. A reception will be held on Saturday, June 19, from 4 to 7 p.m.

Participating artists are Estrela, Jenkins, Josephine Barreiro, Sarah Bass Aspe, Yuri Bisono, Carol Black-Lemon, Wendy Born, Syreeta Brooks, Marina Carreira, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, Patricia Croft, Antoinette Ellis-Williams, Mary Fordham, Dino Gravato, Karen Goldberg, Patricia Hutchinson, Lizette Louis, Cathleen McCoy Bristol, Queen Mother Imakhu, Barbara Motley, Frank Niccoletti, Amelia Panico, Davynte “Red” Pannell, Sundra Parker, John Piccoli, Dayana Poulard, Ron Powell, Martryce Roach, Gale Sasson, Ameerah Shabazz, Ella Silivanch, Timothy Simmons, Elaine Tassy, Sheila R. Thompson, Denise Toney and Kelly D. Villalba.

This show has special meaning for curator Estrela, who said she was drawn to the West Orange Arts Council’s welcoming environment. 

“I purposely utilize my skills to help BIPOC (black indigenous people of color) artists, who are underrepresented in the arts scene,” Estrela said. “I feel it’s important to raise awareness of the issues faced in their own communities, including racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice.”

Jenkins said, “This is my first curated show and I am proud to join Maria in this endeavor that is recognized by artists of all colors that ‘black lives matter.’”

The WOAC’s new Literary Arts Group, led by Joyce Harley and Liana Torrice, will be working with the West Orange African Heritage Organization, the West Orange Human Relations Commission and the West Orange Public Library to offer associated presentations and readings from the exhibiting artists and from additional writers from Montclair, Newark and surrounding communities. In collaboration with Pleasant Valley Productions and the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center in West Orange, the WOAC is co-sponsoring a mural project in conjunction with “This is Our Story” performances in June. 

The art exhibit is already serving as inspiration for others. West Orange resident Vicki Jenkins, who teaches dance at Edison High School, has choreographed a dance for her students, titled
“I Can’t Breathe.” This dance was inspired by the poem of the same name, written by WOAC member Niccoletti and published in the West Orange Chronicle.

The “Black Lives Matter” exhibit will be open for in-person visits; timed-entry appointments are mandatory. Hours are posted at www.facebook.com/woac.org. Attendees are required to social distance and wear face coverings at all times. RSVP at https://tinyurl.com/yumbkryp.

Photos Courtesy of Patricia Mitrano