Political art expo brings St. Louis perspectives to WashU
Alpha Omega, a city-wide chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority hosted a political art exposition titled “This Little Light of Mine,” Jan. 31.
According to the event’s organizers, over 100 people attended the event, including students, staff, faculty, and community members. Attendees interacted with artists — many of whom attend universities in the St. Louis metropolitan area — and their artwork.
The event featured drawings, sculptures, T-shirt prints, clothing, murals, and paintings about a multitude of political issues, such as the Israel Palestine Conflict, the socioeconomic divide in St. Louis, gun control, and race.
The expo also featured a presentation on hip-hop’s relationship with politics and consumerism by Lecturer Dr. Zachary Manditch-Prottas and Assistant Professor Dr. Jonathan Fenderson from the Department of African and African American Studies.
According to Professor Fenderson, political art, like many hip-hop songs, has led to and continues to lead to political change worldwide.
“Imagining a different world is a central part of politics,” Fenderson said. “What could the world be? How can we change this to be something better?”
Many of the artists’ creations highlighted political divides in St. Louis. Senior Maya Phelps, co-organizer of the expo and a member of Alpha Omega, said that events like the political art expo can help WashU students interact with the St. Louis community and break down what she called “the WashU bubble.”
“It was really important for us to bring people from the St. Louis community here, because I feel like it gives people that push to engage with St. Louis communities,” Phelps said.
Eman Teshome, a junior at Washington University, hopes that the art expo and the number of attendees indicate that barriers between WashU and the St. Louis community are being dismantled.
“By having a good turnout like this, it shows that the community we have goes beyond [WashU],” Teshome said.
Daphne Washington, a photographer attending Maryville University, said that art plays a vital role in helping break down barriers because of how memorable it can be.
“Art has a unique way of grabbing people’s attention and making you stand there and look at it,” Washington said. “You ask questions about it. You get a message, and you leave with an image in your head associated with a bigger picture.”
Deirra Williams, a photographer and videographer attending Harris-Stowe State University, said she uses her art to forward political movements in the St. Louis community by drawing attention to the significant number of unoccupied homes in St. Louis on the North side of the “Delmar Divide,” an intangible socioeconomic wall that spans Delmar Boulevard.
“Some people have never been on the other side of Delmar, so they don’t see the divide there, but it is still an issue,” Williams said.
Dvora Redlich, a senior majoring in Studio Art at Washington University, said all art is political.
“I think that art is inseparable from politics,” Redlich said. “I think it’s kind of a recent phenomenon to even try to separate it.”
According to Professor Fenderson, politics is just as dependent on art as art is on politics.
“Art is foundational to all political movements,” Fenderson said.
Leandrea Clay, co-organizer of the event and a junior at WashU majoring in Anthropology and African & African American studies, said that political art can allow viewers to see beyond their biases to develop new perspectives on political issues.
“Political art forces you to bear witness,” Clay said.
This article was updated on Feb. 9th to add more information and context.