Va. school hosts 'listening sessions' after removing 'racist' Confederate display

The school took the exhibit down approximately two days after its debut.

Mary Baldwin University is hosting "listening sessions" for students to respond to a Confederate-themed exhibit that the school took down earlier in November.

A Virginia university held a “listening session” Tuesday to discuss a Confederate display that it took down earlier in November.

Mary Baldwin University removed a display that featured prominent Confederate figures after a small group of students deemed the exhibit racist, the Staunton News Leader  reported.

“In accordance with our values as an inclusive, student-centered campus community, we take seriously the concerns about an art exhibition by two Richmond-based artists installed earlier this week in Hunt Gallery,” the school said in a Nov. 8 statement. “As a result of student concerns and discussions with the artists, the installation has been removed as of last night.”

The Exhibit, titled “Relevant / Scrap” by Richmond-based artists Jere Williams and Pam Sutherland, opened on Nov. 5 at Hunt Gallery on Mary Baldwin’s campus in Staunton, Virginia. “Relevant / Scrap” and allowed viewers to share their own opinions via an interactive display.

[RELATED: Student protesters tear down Confederate statue at UNC]

Shortly after the opening of the exhibit, students began to voice their concerns with the Student Senate and convinced the faculty to get in contact with the artists.

An Instagram page with the screen name “yallracistatmarybaldwinu” began posting pictures of the exhibit, terming it  ”racist,” “cultural MISappropriation,” and “bigotry.”

“Get this racist artwork out of here!” the page said, posting an apparent image of the exhibit, which featured horseback riders with “Christianity” written beneath them.

MBU students set up a conference with faculty and administrators artists to express their concerns about the exhibit. Faculty and administrators then met with the artists. Ultimately, MBU decided to take down the display on Nov. 7. 

The university also announced “listening session” events pertaining to the discussion of the exhibit and student opinion.

“To allow students an opportunity to share their feelings in response to the exhibit and their hopes for inclusive community, a series of listening sessions organized by the Office of Inclusive Excellence will be held next week,” the statement said about the listening sessions.

“It is not open to the public, only members of the MBU community,” MBU spokeswoman Liesel Crosier told Campus Reform.

[RELATED: College panel on Confederate statue features zero proponents]

The artists have released a statement in light of the controversy, defending their exhibit in the process and encouraging civil discourse about the exhibit.

“The work in this exhibition expresses our consideration of the complexity of the situation, the current post-truth context in the U.S. only adding to its complexity,” Williams and Sutherland said. “In seeing the inherent duality of the situation, and leading with forgiveness, we hope art becomes a healing lens through which history can be amended.”

Campus Reform reached out to MBU for additional comment about the decision and the process to pull the exhibit from the gallery. Crosier pointed back to the official MBU statement with no additional comment.

Follow the author of this article on Facebook: Jesse Stiller