Florida State University’s Black Student Union rounded off its Black History Month celebrations with an artist showcase Thursday. The second annual show, which took place in the FSU Student Services Building, highlighted student artists of color, many of whom used themes of race and black identity in their artwork.
According to FSU’s Office of Institutional Research, of its 41,717 students less than 9 percent of the student body is African-American; as a result the Black Student Union has become a lifeline for many students of color on campus in order to find a sense of community.
Each year the BSU hosts a month of events in celebration of Black History Month. This year’s theme was “Around the World and Black.” Throughout February the BSU hosted panel discussions, a skate night, networking events, a lip-synch battle, a field day and much more.
For BSU Alumni Director Nakima Brooks, the closing ceremony art show was a great way to bring the celebration full circle.
“This is our second year doing this event so I was really excited to be in charge of it,” Brooks said. “I really love the art and we got quite a few more pieces so it’s really nice to see it come to a close in such a good way. We opened it up to the art department and a lot of other areas on campus, so just to see people appreciate the art is so great.”
Brooks added, “A lot of times when we first get here and even while we’re still on campus sometimes we feel kind of scared to say certain things or we don’t necessarily feel like we fit in certain spaces. So when we have these events that cater to our culture, our wants, our needs, it really makes you feel comfortable if you don’t feel comfortable anywhere else.”
Warren Sylne, a senior studio art major at FSU, was among the featured artists at the show. His large, colorful art deco portraits were among the most talked about pieces by spectators. As a black artist, Sylne believes showcases like this one are critical for minority creatives to gain exposure.
“I was a part of this show last year and so I wanted to come back because I got a lot of exposure and a lot more people to see my work and that’s important as an artist,” Sylne said. “I’m Haitian, I come from Haiti although I don’t choose black themes (purposely) but it comes up in my work subconsciously. In Haiti, it’s very vibrant. There are a lot of bright colors and so if you look at my work you’ll see that. I take the color from my culture and put that in what it do, but the subject varies.”
A spectator at the show, Nia Roberts, reinforced the sentiments of Brooks about the importance of the BSU and events like the showcase for black students at Florida State.
“It’s important to have a safe space; being that we are in a PWI, I now know that I have a community behind me. The welcoming attitude to social events, political events, anything that involves us in any branch I know that I have a base of people I can go to.”