Despite having their controversial artwork taken down, Dayton Regional STEM School students have become even more interested in having this conversation.
Ninth graders from the Dayton Regional STEM School, in studying the experiences of African Americans in the past and present, created silhouette artwork reflective of the issues currently faced by black communities in historical context. Dayton Regional STEM School community outreach director Arch Grieve described the project, “The students chose images from both time periods and created silhouettes merging the two images. Each student was then charged with creating an artists’ statement in which they explain the two events and the thread that connects them.”
Despite the incredible demonstration of creativity and historical expression, the artwork was taken down by the city only two days after it had gone on display in the Dayton Convention Center. As an explanation for the photos being taken down, the City of Dayton gave this comment: “Due to the political nature of the STEM school art display’s content, complaints from our tenants, and guests who visit the Dayton Convention Center, we made the decision to remove the artwork. The City of Dayton has reached out to the STEM school and explained our criteria for displaying art at the Dayton Convention Center. We have offered them another opportunity to display art in our building in the future.”
Fortunately, the fact that the photos were taken down actually gave the students greater attention than they would have received had the artwork just been allowed to remain hanging in the convention center. The students have become even more empowered in terms of speaking out about community injustices and recognizing that they have voices that deserve to be heard.
Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, a parent advocate and the director of Racial Justice NOW! Has started a petition which pleads with the city to: “Reverse its decision to censor young people and put the art back on display; Acknowledge and repair the harm caused to these students; Co-create with grassroots organizations a community dialogue that encourages students and other disenfranchised community members to speak up and actively engage in the political process and social justice concerns.” Response to the petition remains to be seen.