Fine arts seniors share highlights in their final exhibition

Works by graduating fine arts majors are on display in the Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Gallery.
Photo Submitted by Jakeira Gilbert.

The Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Gallery on Thursday hosted its annual “Visions: Graduating Senior Exhibition,” highlighting the artwork of graduating fine arts students.

Dozens of guests, including alumni, faculty, and family came out to the exhibition’s opening reception to support the three new faces of the recurring exhibition series – graduating seniors Stephanie Smith, Shante Griffin and Kaiyla Thompson.

This exhibition showcased all of the work the young women completed throughout their collegiate careers, and they all agreed that there was a strong feeling of accomplishment on this special night.

“To actually have something that’s my own and then to have the whole bottom floor level [to display my work] … I challenged myself and here I am,” Thompson, a senior from Raleigh, North Carolina, said.

“Honestly, this is my grace year. This is my fifth year in school and this whole showcase kind of wraps up just everything I’ve learned in these five years at FAMU or just in life, the people I’ve encountered, and my journey with God. People are enjoying it and I finally get to enjoy it, and know that this is it.”

Griffin, a graduating fine arts senior from Cartersville, Georgia, ultimately described the night as “rewarding.”

“I am very proud of what it is I’ve stood on and what it is that I am sharing with people. I feel like if I don’t even speak, the work within itself tells it all.”

To pay homage to what the university has done for her, graduating senior Smith from Jacksonville, named her collection “Years of Enlightenment.” Diane Hall, Smith’s first advisor, was one of the main sources of inspiration.

“When she described college to me, she described it as the ‘years of enlightenment,’ because you learn so much about yourself within these few years. Over time I started to realize that this quote could be applied to life beyond college. Once you graduate, we’re always continuously learning, and growing, and evolving physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

Although each of the students displayed different forms of art, they shared one central message – faith.

Griffin wanted her viewers to experience faith and hope.

“In the times that we are living in now, it’s a lot of chaos and destruction,” Griffin said. “So underneath all of it I want them to know that there is still love, things to be hopeful for, and a future that we can all make great.”

Smith’s collection involved floral motifs, the message of growth and faith, and also an emphasis on family. One of her pieces highlighted a traumatic phase of her life, where she lost both of her grandparents within a two-year span.

Aja Roache, director of the Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Gallery, said her overall excitement for the seniors, and wished them the best of luck with their careers.

“I’ve known these young ladies since they’ve been in the program, and to watch their work develop and to see them grow as artists has really been wonderful,” Roache said. “They are very motivated and very focused young women so it’s great to see them as they transition out of FAMU. I know that they’re prepared.”

Harris Wiltsher, area facilitator of the visual arts program and associate professor, also expressed his congratulations to the student, and looks forward to many more “Visions” exhibitions.

“Really the goal is for each of our graduates to develop their voice, and this is sort of the cultivation of what it is they’re saying with their artwork,” Wiltsher said. “Every year, we really look forward to this and seeing how they blossom and grow from maybe three or four years ago to now, thriving and prospering with their work.

“We are developing new programs for our students to make them more well-rounded, I think that the sky’s the limit, and I think if they really, really have a passion for it they will be successful at anything that they’ve done,” he added.