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Letter: UMFA exhibit “Black Refractions” is a way to challenge racial biases

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City is open for the first time in five months, with new COVID-19 restrictions in place, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

Until April 21, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is hosting an exhibit called “Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem,” which embodies “Stories of Blackness” from nearly 80 different artists of African American descent.

I would highly recommend visiting this extraordinary feature of compelling Black and African American narratives.

The 72% white population in Salt Lake City (cited from the 2019 census) constitutes a staggering advantage for the racial majority to artistically express their cultures — leaving an inadequate amount of space for the 12% of Black and African American people living in Salt Lake City to promote their individualism and cultural uniqueness.

The artwork displayed in this culturally diverse exhibit highlights the array of artistic style amongst Black and African American people this past century; further, it demonstrates a number of ways in which systemic racism has shaped society.

If schools were open, I’d suggest this exhibit be a mandatory field trip for grade school students. An opportunity for children to grasp historical variances — through an artistic lens of distinct cultures.

Diversity deserves to be celebrated, and exposure to disparate cultures is crucial in understanding the immense racial divide that persists nationwide. I firmly believe that the further engagement one has with unfamiliar and dissimilar communities, the closer one is to accepting others and depleting their deeply ingrained racial biases.

The lack of diversity in Utah constitutes an alienation amidst minority cultures, which should no longer be tolerated. As a community, we’re responsible for educating ourselves on relevant matters. It’s imperative to show up, engage in difficult conversations and challenge our overlooked biases — to hopefully gain perspective.

In this critical moment in which the entire nation is focused on racial division, I would urge everyone who has the opportunity to pay a visit to the UMFA.

Molly Karasick, Salt Lake City

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