From pieces expressing that Black lives matter to showing Black pride, Black Souls Welcome hopes to encompass important themes that Columbia students deem important. Through the perspectives of four Black artists at Columbia, this exhibition aims to show that being Black is not a monolith.
“The intention behind Black Souls Welcome is to showcase Black artists that don’t really get spotlights very often,” said Angel Page Smigielski, a senior acting major and creative director for Black Souls Welcome. “I would like to make sure that artists in different mediums get to experience showcases.”
Columbia Student Diversity and Inclusion’s talent showcase Black Souls Welcome is hosted by students and provides a space for Black Columbia artists to explore and celebrate the many facets of being Black in America.
The showcase is available for viewing through March 30 and is dispersed throughout three buildings on campus. Locations include the Student Center, 754 S. Wabash Ave., the second floor of 618 S. Michigan Ave. and at the SDI office on the fourth floor of 618 S. Michigan Ave. Students and faculty can reserve a ticket to view exhibits in-person. A virtual viewing of the event is also available through the Columbia College Chicago website.
Smigielski, who has worked for SDI since their sophomore year, is showcasing a poetry and photo exhibit called “70th & Throop.” It was inspired by their grandmother who lives on 70th and Throop streets and is displayed on the walls of the fifth floor of the Student Center, mirroring the “scattered remains of [Smigielski’s] mind.”
“I really wanted to showcase work that not only talks about me being Black, but me being a person in this Black skin I have,” Smigielski said.
Isaiah Moore, television and cultural studies major and peer mentor at SDI, helped with the media coverage and distribution, taking pictures of the spaces for the virtual showcase and recording and editing video interviews with artists.
“I was happy to be a part of it because I believe in representation of our marginalized groups in our society, and what better way to do that than by giving space,” Moore said.
The showcase is a continuation of the collaborative effort between students and SDI to host events every February to celebrate Black History Month, despite the pandemic. Smigielski chose the artists Phylinese Brooks, Jordan Mundy and Alana Lacy for Black Souls Welcome with the goal of giving Black women-identifying and Black non-binary artists the opportunity to showcase their talent.
Brooks, a senior acting major, began photography during quarantine and found a passion for being able to “preserve a moment in time for people.”
Brooks’s exhibit “Black Joy” is a collection of some of her earlier and more recent work. In her exhibit, her photos are situated on tables covered in red and white checkered tablecloths on a grass-like carpet with folding chairs, red solo cups, and different food serving trays and condiments including a mini grill, incorporating the feeling of an outdoor barbecue in the summer.
“I based it around asking Black bodies in my life what Black joy meant to them, and I got a lot of being with family, being able to laugh and talk and party together, and that’s how I got my concept for the exhibit,” Brooks said.
Brooks wants everyone to find something to take away from her exhibit. She said she wants people of color to forget about the weight of the world and live in a moment of Black joy. For non-people of color, she wants them to appreciate and respect Black culture and remember it is sacred and should not be taken lightly.
Mundy, a senior marketing major and president of Columbia’s Picture Perfect modeling troupe, is showcasing a fashion exhibit called “Be Yourself.” It is centered around embracing individuality.
“I believe we all should understand the knowledge of self so that when we share, when we have these impacts, it will be at a greater frequency because I can only be me and you can only be you, so I might as well appreciate me for me, and you might as well appreciate you for you,” Mundy said.
Some of the fashion pieces in her exhibit, including a fiery red jumpsuit, come from small local brands in Chicago, Los Angeles and her hometown of St. Louis. The exhibit also includes unreleased fashion films from Picture Perfect.
Mundy also has multiple interactive posters in her exhibit with space for people to write down answers to questions like, “How do you embrace your natural self?”
The modeling industry can cause people to be easily persuaded to view their body in a negative way, Mundy said, which is why she wanted to create conversations around embracing flaws instead of trying to change them.
Mundy sees herself as a positive role model for her little sister through her art and wants her sister to understand she does not need to look a certain way to be accepted.
“I want her to see, you don’t have to be slim and medium- to light-skinned to be a successful creative,” Mundy said. “I love the dual effect of how I am able to care for myself [and also] care for other people that I know and that I don’t know.”