From March 13 to April 7, Slocumb Galleries on campus will be showcasing an exhibit titled “We Are Artists” and “Privilege Walk.”

“We Are Artists” is a part of the 32nd annual Positive/Negative National Juried Art Exhibitions and will be showcased alongside another exhibit, “Open,” which is being hosted at the Tipton Gallery in Johnson City.

The exhibitions are being hosted by the ETSU Department of Art & Design and the Slocumb Galleries, but the exhibition is being sponsored by more than one organization, including the Women’s Resource Center, Privilege Walk Collaborative, and ETSU Civility Celebration. Many of the pieces in the exhibit touched on social issues that impact today’s society.

Karlota Contreras-Koterbay, the director of the Slocumb Galleries, said the exhibition took a week to install, but that the submission process for the artists started in the fall, with the jury taking 2-3 weeks.

The juror for both “We Are Artists” and “Open,” Anja Foerschner, selected 32 artists out of 116 submissions for the exhibitions, and while ‘We Are Artists’ can be viewed on ETSU’s campus at the Slocumb Galleries in Ball Hall, ‘Open’ is on display at the Tipton Gallery until March 24.

In one piece of artwork, there was a photograph of a piece of cake on its side and layered with colors of the rainbow. The LGBTQ focus here brings to light the struggles of the gay community trying to be heard. The photo was titled, ‘Land of the Free I.’

The piece that intrigued me the most was titled “Then and Now” by Elizabeth Mesa-Gaido. This piece is a collaboration of photos of the Cuban Revolution against a colorful background on one side. Right beside those photos were simple black and white pictures of common everyday objects, such as a pair of glasses and a pill bottle. Her artwork is claimed to be a personal testimony.

According to Mesa-Gaido’s website, in 2011, Gaido visited extended family in Cuba. What she saw truly shocked her. She witnessed everyday necessities such as glasses, toilet paper and shoes being smuggled into the country in suitcases by visitors from the U.S. to be given to people who did not have access to such common items. In 2012, Gaido created her “Then and Now” series and put the images of the Cuban Revolution next to everyday items.

“These mixed- media messages juxtapose the past and present within one work,” Gaido said. “Images which represent the revolution and the hopes that came with it, with images of items currently in need brought into Cuba by Cuban-Americans. There is an intentional irony to the representation and cause of elation by two different events fifty years apart.”

Koterbay said her two favorite pieces are the ‘Madonna and Child: Throne of Wisdom’ by Todd Slaughter, “with the child Jesus holding planetary orbs in his hands,” Koterbay said. “Another piece that I gravitate toward is the handwoven rug entitled ‘Ground Control (Mexicali/Calexico)’ by Noelle Mason.”

“We Are Artists” is meant to be an impacting art exhibition with many pieces of art that force people to think and question the world we live in. I was amazed that the different artists had the courage to take on such important, and rather recent, issues through their pieces. The way the issues were portrayed left me speechless, and their messages will stick with me for many years to come.