Art Exhibition by UWM students visualizes realities of racism and inequality

College students put a contemporary human rights movement under the microscope in an exhibition of artwork produced as part of an honors class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The work, collectively titled Art Expo #BlackLivesMatter, is on display in the UWM Art History Gallery from May 5 through 10. The gallery will host an Artist Reception for the exhibition on Thursday, May 5, from 11 am to noon.

The collection of multimedia installations illustrates a unique perspective on issues of race and inequality the students gained through readings, lectures and discussions for the course #BlackLivesMatter: A Contextual Analysis and Critique of the Movement.

David Pate, Associate Professor in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at UWM, organized and led the course. Students began by looking beneath assumptions about #blacklivesmatter to discover the origins of the movement and the historical roots of the discrimination and oppression —some of it brutal—against Black members of society. The course looked broadly at cultural, social and political factors that throughout history, denied the humanity of people based on race, gender, and class. The multimedia project illustrates what the students learned and how they interpret the actions of this contemporary human rights movement.

Guest lecturer, artist and activist Kelly Parks Snider led discussions and worked with the students as they researched and created their art pieces. Representing a range of medium, the works in Art Expo #BlackLivesMatter include large-scale visual narratives, collage, spoken word, dance, photography and steel sculpture.

Professor Pate notes that ideas the students translated through their art demonstrate how complex issues of race and human rights are in America right now. “Hopefully, this art and the conversation it fosters about hidden truths provide a critical lens and a chance to focus with greater awareness on issues of privilege, power and inequality.”

David Pate’s primary research and writing examines the intersection of race, class and gender and specifically the lived experiences of black males as they interact with the social welfare system.

The UWM Art History Gallery is in Mitchell Hall on the UWM campus, 3203 North Downer Avenue, Room 154. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 4 pm.

Contact David Pate at or 414 229-6038 to learn more about Art Expo #BlackLivesMatter.