An art gallery in downtown Johnson City is going to new lengths to showcase diversity in Appalachia.

Tipton Gallery began as an ETSU student project gallery around nine years ago. It’s still associated with the College of Arts and Sciences, but over the years it’s evolved into a gallery that features work from regional and national artists.

The gallery approaches social issues through artwork and strives to put a spotlight on diversity. This month, Tipton Gallery is featuring “Detangling/Unraveling the Politics of Hair: Black TN.”

The exhibition is presented in conjunction with the UMOJA Festival, which happened earlier this month. Many of the pieces relate back to downtown merchants. The art in the exhibit is a celebration of hair and the politics behind it.

“Colored bodies are being policed,” said Karlota Contreras-Koterbay, the Tipton Gallery director and curator. “Women’s bodies are being controlled. This is not fair, and this is not right.”

Contreras-Koterbay hopes that viewing the pieces can help visitors step into a different point-of-view. The exhibition features work from seven different artists, ranging from print makers to photographers. The gallery hopes to resist closed-mindedness through art.

Contreras-Koterbay wants to “make the ‘other’ normal.” By showcasing these artists and their life experience, the curator hopes to bring light to diversity in the area and normalize it. It is the mission of the gallery to help people see each other as fellow citizens.

For students who want to get involved with the gallery, a BFA in something like studio art would be the way to go. Art-related majors do a capstone project at the end of their studies. This requires them to have an art exhibition. The gallery doesn’t only feature paintings, though. Fiber, metals and ceramics pieces were curated by faculty last year to show at Tipton.

Aside from showcasing artwork, the gallery also hosts events. Next week, the gallery is hosting a Black TN panel on September 20 at 6 p.m. The event will be in the Ball Hall auditiorium.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an “art person,” Contreras-Koterbay encourages you to visit the gallery.

“Art is for everyone,” said Contreras-Koterbay. “We are bringing the world to Appalachia one exhibit at a time.”