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School of Social Work exhibits socially relevant art in Atrium Gallery


Munir Mohammed's artwork is on display in the School of Social Work's atrium.
“African Glory” is a 12-piece exhibition created by Ghanaian artist and Rhode Island School of Design grad Munir Mohammed that explores themes of community and diversity that are relevant to the field of social work.

The display – sponsored by the School of Social Work in partnership with Bannister Gallery – will be up until Dec. 18 at the School of Social Work’s Atrium Gallery. It consists of 10 human portraits and two landscapes that reflect the beauty of Africa while generating awareness of the region’s social complexities, said Bela Teixeira ’95, exhibit coordinator.

Teixeira, a master of social work student at RIC and a former executive director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, finds that most of Mohammed’s work addresses the theme of community building, an important subject for future social work practitioners to become familiar with.

In addition, she emphasized how artists like Mohammed function as cultural innovators who keep up with tradition in a modern way. “They are often activists who explore pressing [social] issues in their work,” she added. African Glory depicts art as a reflection of life, evident in the intricate features of the paintings themselves.


Mohammed's 'In Maternal Praise' (1995)
“The portraits and murals are characterized by a calm repose,” Teixeira said. “Individuals are depicted in a respectful way and as very dignified. There is a lot of variety and realism in his work.”

Since it was mounted back in early October, the exhibition has been well received by social work students and faculty, most of whom marvel at the complex workmanship in Mohammed’s paintings.

As part of the partnership project, students will also get a chance to speak firsthand with Mohammed about his work at a luncheon scheduled for Dec. 2.

This semester, the School of Social Work has been inviting several AmeriCorps groups to see the “African Glory” exhibit in order to assess how art can bring communities together, and how it inspires in the public a sense of social responsibility for the places where they come from.

Through the artwork, social work students are also encouraged to connect with others by obtaining a keener awareness of the different communities that are out there, which in turn inspires their line of work in public service, Teixeira explained.

To strengthen ties within the college community as a whole, the School of Social Work invited faculty and students school-wide to a gallery reception on Nov. 13.


Two of the 12 pieces by Mohammed in the Atrium Gallery.
Sue Pearlmutter, dean of the School of Social Work, confirmed that there are plans to continue the art exhibits in the Atrium Gallery once “African Glory” is finished running, and she hopes to have more information about it soon. “We have identified an artist whose work is very different but contains images that evoke social justice issues,” she said.

The ultimate goal of the continuing the art shows at the School of Social of Work would be to continue bridging gaps between communities by creating a place for ongoing dialogue surrounding socially conscious art and the issues addressed, according to Teixeira.

”African Glory” is currently on display in the Atrium Gallery located in the School of Social Work building on the east campus, and is open from Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information or to request a day or evening tour, call (401) 456-8864 or email Bela Teixeira at jobela@verizon.net.