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Guided gallery tours provide added context and conversation

Faculty, staff, students and the community are invited to take a guided tour of the “Past Is Present: Black Artists Respond to the Complicated Histories of Slavery” exhibition at the Herron School of Art and Design.

The public can see the exhibition anytime during operating hours, but experiencing it with a guide can provide added background and opportunities for reflection.

Eight people look at a rectangle shaped art installation mounted to a wall. Credit: Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana UniversityGallery guides lead discussions with guests about historical context, interpretations of the art and the emotions they elicit.

“We were very careful not to sensationalize this history and to not make it into a voyeuristic kind of activity,” Herron Gallery director and curator Joseph Mella said.

Jonathan Michael Square, assistant professor of Black visual culture at Parsons School of Design, curated “Past Is Present.” The exhibition, which explores the legacy of slavery and present-day issues surrounding race, power and inequality, features the work of local, national and international artists, as well as historic documents.

Mella especially encourages faculty and campus leaders to arrange tours for classes or clubs.

Three people look at historical documents enclosed in a glass case. Credit: Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University“The exhibition is relevant to courses across the board, from political science to history to anthropology; the list goes on,” he said. “Critical studies of any kind would find this engaging.

Students are so used to looking at something on a screen. Putting people in contact with historical documents brings the history to life. I also find that pairing these materials with contemporary art deepens the overall experience of the exhibition for our viewers.”

“Past Is Present” is open through Jan. 14. Check the gallery hours for winter break closures. Tour sizes are flexible. Mella recommends interested parties contact to discuss dates and times before filling out the reservation form.

He describes “Past Is Present” as a benchmark exhibit.

“It is so far reaching in its scope and depth,” Mella said. “It focuses on a very painful topic but was created with thoughtfulness and care. You get to see things that are incredibly beautiful, too.

“The feedback has been amazing. I think the exhibition has really opened eyes to the potential of what art can do.”

Tia Broz is a communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.