JSU student artist, Kalin Norman presented his debut exhibition through a powerpoint presentation entitled ‘We Thee Culture’ during the grand re-opening of Gallery One. Students also painted on the walls creating three murals which were showcased during this event. The creative drawings served as an introduction to the on-campus art gallery, which is to tell the story of Jackson State students.
“As a student myself, a lot of my peers feel like they are not being heard, so this space is a place where everyone is heard and can express their individual stories,” says Norman.
He continues, “Mentally, my peers feel like there is a certain standard of how to act and look while on the main campus, but once you cross Dalton street, there is a shift, the rules are different, almost as if you are off-campus. In this space, Jackson State is the backdrop and the students are the headliner.”
Veronica Cohen, vice president for Institutional Advancement says, “Our student population is so diverse and we want all of our students to feel inspired to be who they truly are. One University Place, where Gallery One is located enables our students to display their creative talents through art and we are in full support of this initiative.”
Brandi Knott, president for Kappa Pi, an art honor organization at JSU says, “Gallery one is a place where students can come in and just chill-out. You can be who you are. We accept not only art students but everyone can come here and we will make you feel welcome and allow you to be creative, artistic, quiet or whatever makes you happy. Just enjoy the space.”
When Norman learned the institution’s 2019 homecoming theme, Let Thee Good Times Roll, was New Orleans inspired, he received a lot of concerns from his New Orleans peers. “A large number of my friends from New Orleans felt alienated because they weren’t asked to be included and they felt like it was a step on the culture. They felt like, JSU wanted to use the culture to have one big party, when everything about New Orleans culture is spiritual.”
As a result, Norman used his talents to create a slideshow to display the correlation of cultures between Jackson State University and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Norman’s inspiration for the title of the exhibit came from his friend Edward Buckles, who is a New Orleans filmmaker.
Buckles has his own brand entitled, House of the Young and within his brand, there is a shirt labeled, ‘We Thee Culture’.
“We Thee Culture is Buckles way of telling the story of Black New Orleans,” says Norman. “A lot of people aren’t aware that there are a vast number of things culturally that are pulled from New Orleans culture.”
The 22-year old continued, “Camouflage, music in general because all music has been traced to Congo square in New Orleans. This title also relates to Historically Black Colleges and Universities because most of them are predominantly in inner cities where our culture was originated.”
The slideshow showed correlations of Mardi Gras Indians to Greek letter organizations, and the second line to the campus hotspot. The hotspot was also compared to a fashion show; which correlates to the infamous annual yard festival held on campus.
Dr. Shon McCarthy, director of JSU Art Galleries says, “Today was a wonderful moment where our students from all disciplines shared their creative talents to introduce a homecoming inspired exhibition. The most beautiful part about this process is that twelve students were in this art gallery working diligently for a week until midnight making sure that this event would be a success.”