Listening For Racial Understanding

Morgantown Hosts Public Art Exhibit

Art interpretations of Listening for Racial Understanding, a recording project conceived by Morgantown residents Eve Faulkes and Susan Eason, will be brought to the public Friday September 9, 6-8 pm for an art opening at the Morgantown Public Library. Some of the participants will share what the experience has been like.

Since January when the project began, coordinators Faulkes and Eason recruited 46 individuals of differing racial and/or cultural backgrounds and recorded 23 interviews following a guided, approach using 5 questions and active listening techniques. Artists were then invited to listen to one of the conversations, working to render a piece of art, paying particular attention to moments that stood out to the pair. The 23 pieces of art range in form from poetry to digitally generated art, to quilted fabric, oil on canvas, video, and more. QR codes for some of the art will connect to portions of the recordings.

“People have some mighty powerful, moving, heartbreaking, terrifying, loving, compassionate stories to share about their lives and experiences in this world. And when we take time to listen to and connect with one other, we can really see the beauty and humanity of each person,” Eason said. “The artwork transforms the oftentimes hour-long conversations and brings them into yet another realm to be experienced.”

Faulkes explained that the overall project—interviewees, artists, and themselves—represent voices from 8 states (the majority from West Virginia) and 3 countries, with approximately 35 white individuals and 30 People of Color, including several who are refugees. All have connections to West Virginia.

Eason and Faulkes’ idea sprang from a meeting of the group, Dismantling Racism Together when Sarah Little, a 98-year-old Black woman, who had told them she wished she could just sit down with a white person and talk with them. They all wanted that to happen to help generate greater understanding, empathy, and compassion, realizing that personal experiences have the best chance of overcoming stereotypes. It was funded in part by a grant from First Presbyterian Church of Morgantown.

The exhibit eventually will travel to Lewisburg and Beckley with a goal of more counties hosting the project. In Morgantown, the exhibit will stay up during public library hours through Friday, September 30, when a 6-8 pm closing that day will include more participants and poet, Susan Truxell Sauter, reading her work that renders one of the conversations.

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