Marching On

A new art gallery on campus highlights African 
and African-American culture.

Tucked away on the second floor of UT’s Jester Dormitory is a small but impressive artistic hub not many know about. The space is called the Christian-Green Gallery and no matter what’s on display, there’s always one interconnecting theme: the African diaspora.

The Christian-Green Gallery is an extension of the John L. Warfield Center for African and American Studies and is the sole on-campus institution dedicated to the “artistic, expressive, and material culture produced within the African diaspora.” The $1.1 million project’s design was headed by Michelle Rossomando, MAr ’98, of McKinney York Architects and officially opened in February 2016. Since then, it has held exhibits of the works of Eto Otitigbe, a Nigerian-American artist based in Austin and New York City, and Angelbert Metoyer of Houston.

On display beginning Jan. 20, 2017, is the exhibit March ON!, featuring art from U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ trilogy March, a graphic novel series that documents his experiences as a leader in the civil rights movement. “I think the book to some degree has become what I like to call a change agent,” Lewis told The New York Times in August. “[It] has caused another generation to get out there and push and pull and try to set things right.”

Lewis published the first installment of March in 2013 with comics writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. The trilogy has won numerous awards, including the Eisner award — which is often referred to as the “Oscar of comics” — for the series’ second installment. In November 2016, March: Book Three became the first graphic novel to win the National Book Award, specifically for Young People’s Literature. From growing up in Troy, Alabama, to participating in the 1963 March on Washington to former President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Powell’s dark yet vibrant illustrations effectively capture what life was like for Lewis as a black man in America.

Complementing March, the exhibit also features photos from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History’s Charles Moore and Spider Martin collections. Both Moore and Martin are American photographers who documented the civil rights era. The photos on display, including a shot of Lewis standing front-and-center as state troopers give marchers a warning in 1965, coincide with the events that take place in March, offering a less personal but still harrowing perspective.

March ON! really exemplifies the core of what the Christian-Green Gallery is trying to do,” says Lise Ragbir, the associate director of the Warfield Center. “The gallery is a space dedicated to the intersection of creative expression and social justice. It’s not a space for one specific community — it seeks to be a place for discovery and self-affirmation.”