A self-portrait by Gabriela Diaz '24 was awarded the grand prize at this year's annual art exhibit in Olin-Rice's Smail Gallery.

Last year, as planning got underway for the annual art exhibit in Olin-Rice’s Smail Gallery, environmental studies professor Roopali Phadke suggested something new: a student-curated exhibit about resilience.

What emerged by fall—nearly 20 images now displayed on the gallery walls—grew into an archive of what students experienced in 2020. “The exhibit features images of pain, rage, and hope from a historic spring and summer—all through the eyes of Macalester students scattered across the country,” writes exhibit curator Kori Suzuki ’21 (Richmond, Calif.), who invited submissions from students and coordinated two rounds of judging with support from art professor Eric Carroll.

Gabriela Diaz ’24 (Tucson, Ariz.) wanted her submission to show a turning point in her perspective in 2020. As demonstrations surged nationwide after George Floyd was killed by police, Diaz’s family asked her to stay home because of rising COVID cases in Arizona, so she decided to make posters and share them on social media.

Diaz snapped a self-portrait with a tripod, then distributed the posters to friends around Tucson to use as yard signs. “As someone who had not been vocal about social justice or politics before, this photograph sent a clear message to my friends and family: my time of being silent was over,” says Diaz, whose image was awarded the exhibit’s grand prize. “It’s easy to get worn out and overwhelmed by the continuous effects of systemic racism, but we must remind ourselves that it is a privilege to look the other way. This photo depicts my eagerness to use my platform to ignite change.”

January 25 2021

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