Students from the College of Visual Arts and Design joined forces to create the BIPOC Artist Association to create a community with fellow artists.
The BIPOC Artist Association is an organization that supports artists who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color. The association aims to advocate for these artists who have lacked institutional support and create opportunities for them.
Alvarro Villa, drawing, painting and ceramics and sculpture senior, started the BIPOC Artist Association to connect with students of similar identities. Villa said he felt isolated in classes when the majority of his peers were white.
“I was in classes where I was one out of two or three people of color,” Villa said. “I felt my identity wasn’t around or seen.”
Villa said the association is open to students of all majors because it wants to find BIPOC artists across the university. To form the organization, Villa reached out to another CVAD student, art education junior Jennifer Hernandez.
Hernandez said she felt it was important that the association forms a BIPOC community within CVAD. She said understanding how people of color can need more support at times is essential to education.
“I thought it was important for [BIPOC students] to have a space where we could talk about our experiences because it usually reflects in our art,” Hernandez said. “Having someone understand us is important for artists.”
A strong community of BIPOC artists and the chance to feel included attracted interdisciplinary arts and design junior Kevin Ligons to join the association.
“I really want to be a part of UNT, but I felt out of place,” Ligons said. “I’m a person of color — I want to support other people of color and I love art.”
Drawing and painting junior Kennedy Lewis said she was interested in the organization because she wanted a safe space to talk about not only issues, but also the triumphs BIPOC students experience.
“It’s a good place to have our voices heard,” Lewis said. “I can feel alienated a lot.”
The BIPOC Artist Association aims to confront and change isolation among BIPOC university students.
“When we’re talking about Black Lives Matter [in class] you can feel the tension,” Ligons said. “You don’t have to feel uncomfortable — just listen to what I’m saying.”
During critiques in class, Villa said he was able to learn the most from people with racial identities because they better understood his perspective.
One of the association’s main goals is forming a strong community and support system, and Villa said connecting with current students and alumni can help students while in the program and beyond graduation.
“When we graduate, it feels like we’re kicked off our pedestal,” Villa said. “I don’t want to pull the rug and have people feel disconnected again. Alumni can carry a lot of power.”
Villa said through the association, BIPOC students can share their work and unique perspectives. They said the group’s mission is to create a network where students can have a safe space to learn, socialize and seek peer support.
“The BIPOC Artist Association is an amplification of our own voices,” Villa said. “It serves as a big microphone where everyone can run up and use it.”
To learn how to join the BIPOC Artist Association, individuals can visit the association’s Instagram account, @bipocartistassociation.
Featured image: CVAD students Jennifer Hernandez, Alvaro Villa, Kevin Ligons and Kennedy Lewis gather in the College of Visual Arts and Design building on Aug. 30, 2021. Villa spearheaded The BIPOC Art Association to foster an empowering space for artists of color. Photo by Meredith Holser