October 18, 2020
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(A)bridging Community: Social Responsibility During Multiple Pandemics

Welcome to (A)bridging Community: Social Responsibility During Multiple Pandemics, a virtual art exhibition curated by Chatham University student Chenoa Baker (’21, Cultural Studies) and hosted by the Jennie King Mellon Library. Starting October 18th, 2020, carefully selected pieces of art and corresponding library resources will be posted to the JKM Library’s Instagram and Facebook feeds over the course of a week. The entire exhibition (including information on the artwork, artists, and library resources) has been gathered together here as well.

Curatorial Statement

“We live in a moment that exposes our interconnections. They exist as bifurcations: an afterthought for some and constant reminders of inequalities as well as white supremacist capitalist patriarchy for others. At the intersection of two pandemics, we see that the innocent bystander is complicit, the moderate is a danger, and without bridging these connections with compassion, we sever the bridge we stand on and crumble into the water.”

Selected Works

Kim, Byron. Synecdoche. 1991, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Byron Kim (b.1961) is a contemporary Korean-American artist who explores racial identity through minimalist art. Synecdoche, one of his most famous artworks, is a collection of paint swatches matched to random sitters of different races. Some view this work as a collage of people, their untold stories, and the color of their skin speaking for them. Others may see this as a variety of people who are individuals part of the whole; similarly, the squares, put together, represent the human race.

Shimoyama, Devan. February II. 2019.

Devan Shimoyama (b. 1989) is a Pittsburgh-based artist and Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Shimoyama creates renderings of glittery fantasies and anxieties around navigating Blackness and queerness. He creates images with paint, collage, and glass to communicate his message. February II, dedicated to Trayvon Martin, signifies the innocence of Black children killed by police brutality by representing them with an article of clothing—the hoodie. The hoodie masks their true identity and skews their adolescence because of the lens of white supremacy. White supremacy obscures the child inside into a perception of suspicion. (Follow on Instagram @DevanShimoyama)

Ballard, Lavett. Hear My Call. 2020.

Lavett Ballard (b.1970) is a collage artist, curator, and art historian. She primarily uses the medium of wooden fences and wood. She reclaims this wood to represent a retelling of Black history. In her work of Breonna Taylor, Hear My Call, she celebrates her life and the collective that shaped who she was. There are motifs of flowers, circles, and a butterfly to represent femininity, softness, and transition of her life. Typically, in Black tradition, death is accompanied by a celebration of life, a time to dwell in grief and deep lamentation and to remember the interconnected network of ancestors that welcomes the deceased person into the fold. (Follow on Facebook at @LavettBallardArt)

Benjamin, Gavin. Dressed to Kill no. 1 (Hoodie). 2020, Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ.

Gavin Benjamin (b.1971) is a Guyanese Pittsburgh-based artist that works in paint and a variety of appliqued materials. His most famous series is Heads of State, which depicts portraits of Black royalty in a distinct Neo-Baroque style. In Dressed to Kill, Benjamin layers images onto the subject’s hoodie and face. On the subject are images of protests, George Floyd’s phrase during the time of his death “I can’t breathe,” and Skittles and Arizona drinks that Trayvon Martin and others picked up from a corner store before their deaths. All of these markers on the body and provocative title, stresses that victims of police brutality are dressed in a multilayered story ignored during their murder. (Follow on Instagram @gavinbenjamin)

Leff, Rosa. The Real Pandemic. 2020, private collection.

Rosa Leff is an artist and educator that is known for her paper cutting prowess. She cuts elaborate cityscapes by hand and by X-Acto knife. The Real Pandemic is an accumulation of already present pathologies—systemic racism, a failing healthcare system, and broken economic infrastructure. Through the pandemic, it shows that we lost some of our main tenants of community. While we revisit this concept, police are central to the narrative of state power that was never created for the community and only disrupts it more by metaphorically tearing down bridges and literally ripping apart families. (Follow on Instagram @rosaleff)

Click on the images below to view enlarged versions.

Library Resources

Art can be described as the culmination of cultural, social, and historical context into statements, stories, and expression of creativity. Knowing that context can dramatically change the reading of a piece, but it is not always necessary to appreciate the work. At the Jennie King Mellon Library, we do believe that discovering and understanding the context behind a piece of information (such as a work of art) is critical to full understanding. We try to communicate that importance through our work as library and information professional. To that end, here is a list of resources that we feel can help aid in building your personal understanding of the context behind these pieces.

Library Books

Other Library Resources

  • Issues & Controversies Database
    • Issues & Controversies is a wonderful tool for both academic and personal use. Focusing on controversial topics such as systemic racism, Issues & Controversies gathers pro-con articles, primary source material, news publications, various media content, court cases, editorials, etc. to help offer a well-rounded view of difficult topics we see on the news and in life. It is an excellent tool for helping build context and understanding around some of the most hot-button topics of the day.
  • Adam Matthew Collection
    • The Adam Matthew Collection contains multiple relevant collections of primary source materials that touch on America’s history with white supremacy, Civil Rights, enslavement, and race relations. These materials are important when becoming familiar with our own history, especially when looking at the role community plays. Documents, newspapers, images, illustrations from the time, artifacts, and more all ground researchers in the correct historical context.
    • African American Communities: Focusing predominantly on Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and towns and cities in North Carolina this resource presents multiple aspects of the African American community through pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals, correspondence, official records, reports, and in-depth oral histories, revealing the prevalent challenges of racism, discrimination and integration, and a unique African American culture and identity.
    • Race Relations in America: Documenting three pivotal decades in the fight for civil rights, this resource showcases the speeches, reports, surveys, and analyses produced by the Department’s staff and Institute participants, including Charles S. Johnson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall.
    • Slavery, Abolition & Social Justice: This resource is designed as an important portal for slavery and abolition studies, bringing together documents and collections covering an extensive time period, between 1490 and 2007, from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world. Close attention is given to the varieties of slavery, the legacy of slavery, the social justice perspective, and the continued existence of slavery today.
  • Do Not Resist | Streaming on AVON
    • DO NOT RESIST is an urgent and powerful exploration of the rapid militarization of the police in the United States. Starting on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, as the community grapples with the death of Michael Brown, DO NOT RESIST – the directorial debut of DETROPIA cinematographer Craig Atkinson – offers a stunning look at the current state of policing in America and a glimpse into the future.
  • The Hate U Give | Media Shelves | 791.4372 H283t
    • Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, Algee Smith, K.J. Apa, Common. Starr Carter navigates the perilous waters between her poor, black neighborhood and her prestigious, mainly white private school. This all changes when she finds herself in the middle of racial activism after her best friend is shot by police officers, and she’s forced to make a decision. Allow the media to skewer her friend to protect the status quo, or stand up and tell the truth in memory of Khalil?
  • Roots | Media Shelves | 791.4372 R678h
    • An adaptation of Alex Haley’s “Roots”, in which Haley traces his African American family’s history from the mid-18th century to the Reconstruction era.

You can find more relevant resources on our Black Lives Matter resource guide.

February 27, 2019
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Where Do You Volunteer?

Not long ago, the JKM Library posed a question to the Chatham community: where do you like to volunteer? We received lots of awesome responses, including some folks asking for specific suggestions and other folks offering them up readily. We’re proud to see that this is a community who enjoys giving back.

Below are the responses you offered along with links so others can look into how they too can get involved. We hope that this inspires you to spend a free afternoon offering your time to an organization you feel passionately about over your Spring Break next week!

  • Animal Friends: This organization cares for homeless animals and provides animal healthcare, training, food, therapy, education, and more!
  • Best Buddies: Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Carnegie Public Library: Want to give back to you community through a local public library? Check out the list of ways you can help at a CLP branch local to you!
  • Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank: The food bank aims to feed people in need and mobilize the community to eliminate hunger. They have multiple ways you can get involved, and each is important to their goals.
  • PAAR (Pittsburgh Action Against Rape): PAAR has offered services for more than 43 years, making it one of the oldest rape crisis centers in the country. Train to provide crisis support via their hotline (1-866-363-7273), offer support in person at police stations and emergency departments, and provide education and coping strategies to survivors. Help PAAR assist victims of sexual abuse and end sexual violence in our community.
  • Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse: This local non-profit inspires creativity, conservation, and community engagement through reuse. They operate a non-traditional art supply shop where people can donate used art and craft supplies, as well as shop for these unique items all in the same location. They also facilitate hands-on creative programming that educates the public about the benefits of reuse for the environment, community, and self. They have many ways you can volunteer!
  • Days for Girls: This organization makes it possible for women and girls around the world to live their lives uninterrupted by their menstrual cycles. In some places, women and girls do not have the resources or ability to access personal hygiene products, but Day for Girls makes reusable flannel pads and education for menstruating folks so they do not have to miss school or work days and can work toward their life goals uninterrupted and with less risk. Volunteer to sew reusable pads or distribute kits!
  • Prevention Point Pittsburgh: Prevention Point Pittsburgh (PPP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing health empowerment services to people who use drugs. PPP offers needle exchange services, comprehensive case management services, assistance to drug treatment, individualized risk-reduction counseling, health education, condom and bleach distribution, overdose prevention with naloxone distribution, and free HIV, Hepatitis C, and STD screening in collaboration with Allies for Health + Wellbeing, formerly the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. Contact them to see how you can help.
  • Humane Animal Rescue: One of the largest animal welfare associations in PA tasked with providing enhanced services to domestic and wild animals alike. They provide all aspects of care to abandoned, neglected, and injured animals; reunite lost pets with their caregivers or seek new families for them; educate the community on humane care and interactions with all animals with the goal of reducing pet overpopulation and negative relationships with native wildlife; reinforce a standard of living for animals and prevent cruelty; and provide assistance and medical care to injured, orphaned, or ill native PA wildlife with a goal of returning them to their natural habitat.
  • PMI Pittsburgh: Are you a project manager  or are looking to enter that field? PMI Pittsburgh allows project manager professionals to collaborate and gain value in professional development locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Little Sisters of the Poor: The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Catholic organization that offers support and care to impoverished elderly populations. Volunteer to support the organization and help those they seek to care for.
  • Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP): HELP is designed to prevent delirium in patients age 70 and older who are hospitalized at UPMC Shadyside. Volunteers spend quality time interacting with patients, offering services to improve the quality of the patient’s stay, while watching for signs of delirium.
  • 412 Food Rescue: 412 Food Rescue aims to combat two issues: food waste and food apartheids. Volunteers take extra food from various business and institutions and redistributes it where it is most needed. Volunteers also help with education and gardening programs, events, administrative tasks, and more!
  • Lawrence County Historical Society: Lawrence county is located over an hour north of Pittsburgh. Its historical society preserves its history and historical sites, acquires artifacts related to county history, and encourages interest in county history with education and events.
  • Animal Friends of Westmorland: Another wonderful Animal Friends group, this organization helps abandoned, abused and neglected animals. They also educate the public to spay and neuter, spread awareness on embracing pet adoption, and inspire others to become animal advocates.
  • Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh: This local organization offers  innovative and integrated health care, education, and social services for children and youth with special health care needs.
  • Girl Scouts: Girl Scouts provides leadership and community development for young girls and teens through immersive programs. Volunteer to give back to the next generation!
  • East End Cooperative Ministry: EECM supports its community from many angles. It offers programming for children and teens, soup kitchen services, shelters and housing, health recovery services, therapy, and much more. They offer many ways for community members to volunteer.
  • Planned Parenthood: PP offers affordable and accessible reproductive health services and education, birth control, cancer and STD screenings, and more! Folks of all genders are eligible for their services.
  • Climate Reality: This organization is dedicated to community action concerning climate change both locally, nationally, and globally. Join the local chapter to get involved today!
  • The National Aviary: Located right here in Pittsburgh is our country’s national Aviary! Volunteer to help those visiting from near and far make the most out of their visit to this amazing institution.
  • Jubilee Soup Kitchen: This local soup kitchen provides hot meals every day to those who have fallen on hard times. Volunteers help make them a success!
  • Haiti: Haiti has been devastated by natural disaster time and time again. There are several organizations set up for those interested in taking a trip to the country to help them get back on their feet, but make sure you do your research before signing up! Habitat for Humanity in Haiti is a good option.
  • Local Churches: If you belong to a religious organization, there are usually volunteering opportunities set up through them in your community. This is a very easy and fun way for you to give back to your community with folks you already know for a cause you are passionate about. Check in with your faith leader to see how you can get involved!
  • Literary programs: There are a plethora of excellent literary-based programs working locally, nationally, and globally to promote reading and literacy to a variety of populations. You can volunteer to make sure underprivileged children get free books, prisoners get access to important books and information in their prison libraries, you cna support the creation of literary programs around the country and around the work, or you could volunteer to do story time at your local public library. Interested in volunteering for a literary program but don’t know where to start looking? Ask JKM Librarian Jocelyn Codner!
  • Political campaigns: Perhaps folks weren’t serious when they mentioned volunteering for certain political campaigns on our question sheets, but regardless of their intentions, volunteering for the political campaign of a candidate you back is a valuable use of time. This is especially true for local campaigns where the immediate impact can be great. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the local races occurring and the candidates running. Maybe volunteer to work a phone bank or canvass a community on the weekends! Change starts on the local level.
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