The inauguration festivities are over, but students can still celebrate this year’s historical presidential election with a visit to Memorial Union’s Art Lounge.
In honor of Black History Month, the Art Lounge is currently showcasing a photo biography of the life of President Barack Obama as part of its Obama! Exhibit, running until the end of February.
The exhibit features photographs from throughout President Obama’s life, as well as newspaper articles, multimedia images and transcripts of past speeches, said Tara Rankin, marketing assistant for Campus Unions.
“With the Obama! Exhibit we wanted to tie together the two themes of Black History Month and the inauguration of the first African American president,” she said. “The exhibit tracks the life of Obama from his childhood right up until his presidency.”
The decision to feature Obama as the subject for the exhibit was made after much discussion among the Art Lounge Staff, said Nicoletta Rousseva, a senior art history major and director for the Art Lounge.
“We really wanted to do [a display] for Black History Month and all of [the staff] was really inspired by Obama’s road to the White House,” she said. “We thought it was a good focus for the exhibit in terms of inspiring students here on campus.”
The exhibit was unveiled in an opening ceremony last week that featured a performance by Soul Speaks, a spoken word group sponsored by Africans & African Americans Cultivating Education (ACE).
Junior African and African American studies major, Larisa Oloughlin said she thought the Obama exhibit did a good job of tying together black history with the current times.
“This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, so it just seems really appropriate to feature a man who has now become such a vital part of black history,” she said. “So many people doubted that this country was ready for a black president.… His inauguration is really a mark of how far we have come.”
Oloughlin, who is also an assistant for ACE, said her favorite part of the exhibit was the childhood photos of the new president.
“It was really interesting to see pictures of him with his family, playing sports and just being a regular kid,” she said. “Those photos just showed Obama the person and I was able to connect to that.”
One interesting aspect of the display is a pair of Obama posters on which students can leave messages and comments, Rousseva said.
“We really wanted to invite visitors to actively observe … to talk about their reactions to both the exhibit and inauguration in general,” she said. “It seemed like a good way to foster communication among students and allow them to express their opinions.”
While a fairly new addition to Memorial Union, the second floor lounge has been a success so far, Rousseva said.
“The space started out as a fine arts gallery, but in fall of 2007 it was turned into the current lounge as a way to create more study space on campus,” she said. “Just since the beginning of this quarter we have seen a substantial increase in students coming here.”
Oloughlin said she really enjoys the casual vibe of the Art Lounge and plans to check out future exhibits.
“I like how it isn’t just a gallery, but also a place just to study and relax.… I think it’s a great environment for students to hang out in.”
The Art Lounge features several different exhibits every year, usually changing the display every month, Rousseva said.
“We usually aim for a diverse array of subjects, but try to stick to themes that are important to the student population as well,” she said. “Our upcoming exhibit, ‘Anatomy of Flesh,’ will consist solely of student art and I am really excited to find out more about it.”
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.