'Schools for the Colored' Photo Exhibit at MCCC’s JKC Gallery Melds History With Art
Photographer Wendel White describes his methodology and vision in assembling his exhibit "Schools for the Colored," now on display at Mercer County Community College's Gallery at the James Kerney Campus in Trenton.
Michael Chovan-Dalton, director of the Gallery at the James Kerney Campus, introduces photographer Wendel White during the opening reception for White's exhibit, "Schools for the Colored."
TRENTON – Dozens of community members attended the April 12 opening reception and gallery talk for Wendel White’s “Schools for the Colored” photo exhibit at the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) James Kerney Campus (JKC) Gallery in Trenton, where White put his striking images and photo illustrations into a social context.
The opening reception of the show coincided with the college’s ribbon cutting of the new Trenton Hall Annex, where the JKC Gallery is housed. Gallery Director Michael Chovan-Dalton, who coordinates MCCC’s Photography and Digital Arts program, said numerous community members strolled through the gallery even before the opening event.
“It was quite an experience,” Chovan-Dalton said. “People came through and learned a little history, and shared their own personal stories.”
White, a highly-acclaimed, award-winning photographer, said the “Schools for the Colored” exhibit originated with his “Small Towns, Black Lives” project, where he wanted to depict the lives of individuals in a small, historically African-American town in southern New Jersey. His new exhibit, however, integrates black and white images with digital media to depict the schools spawned by racial segregation.
“This has been a project that has meant a lot to me,” White said. “I wanted this project to reflect the origin of the narratives from 'Small Towns, Black Lives,' and how the history of the United States is reflected in what we see today.”
White said the exhibit is actually two bodies of work, with 50 images divided among the southern half of 10 northern states. Some of the images depict little more than foundations; others are empty lots where a segregation-era school once stood.
“It can be purely a visualization of what the school represented, and how it is separated from the world around it,” White said. “Sometimes a building is broken; sometimes it is the world around it that is broken.”
The second part of the exhibit, “Red Summer,” is a collection of images chronicling a series of race riots in more than three dozen cities in 1919. The images include headlines and newspaper articles from the time.
“Newspapers are a way of telling the story of how people perceived things at the time,” White said. “These are the stories: the people, the places, the faces.”
White’s “Schools for the Colored” exhibit runs through May 4 at The Gallery at JKC. Gallery hours for this show are Mondays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon, and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.mccc.edu/jkcgallery.
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