Bates students commonly represent a wholesome liberal arts education; Calvin Reedy ’17 truly encompasses that through his work on social justice and the visual arts. Reedy, a Studio Art major concentrated in photography, has been able to infuse his passion for change into his impactful photography. Reedy describes his work with the camera as his way of impacting perspectives on race within the Bates community. “It’s important to me to photograph people of color because by doing that I am able to make those minimal changes in the media,” Reedy said. This issue of racism is a particularly important message Reedy tries convey in every piece.
Although difficult to decide, he described his favorite project as “a visual representation of the lives of black students at Bates.” Titled “Black Face, White Space” Reedy captured the portraits of twenty black Bates students in front of a white background. The photographs acted as a reminder to the viewer of what it was like for students of color to be surrounded by whiteness, a very real yet unrecognized concern. This collection of photos was displayed last year in the Library Arcade. People Reedy had never met approached him to express their gratitude toward the photos. “These types of conversations with people, whether they be a stranger or a friend, are the most satisfying to an artist.” It is important that people discuss the work to start a universal conversation about race. While statistics, tweets, marches, and articles can bolster and enliven movements, art brings in the endurance. Art makes injustice a song that gets stuck in your head; art makes murals out of obituaries, and hope out of statistics.
This work was displayed while the Black Lives Matter movement was just taking off. Reedy comments that he was actually quite disappointed by the lack of attention that Bates Students paid to the issue. “Just because we are at Bates, a small community, that doesn’t excuse us from these issues.” While in small environments in rural towns like Bates, it might feel like those movements, protests and sit-ins, are far away from us; however, these issues are just as evident here at Bates. It is art like Reedy’s that remind Bates students of these very real questions that need to be talked about.
Reedy uses photography in particular to help him capture the reality of his passionate concerns. “I grew up with a camera. At the age of five, learned how a camera worked and got good at it.” Reedy talks about how his liberal arts education here at Bates has been the motivation to capture these moments on his camera. While also taking a wide variety of classes he has allowed himself to see the different elevations of race. He says classes like “psychology teach me about how race is perceived internally and to the individual.” Conversely, a class like White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History discusses the issue as a social movement portrayed through the media.
It is through the visual arts he is able to express his passion for these topics. Reedy says he knew he wanted to take art classes coming into Bates. After enrolling in a ceramics class first semester, he knew the art department was where he wanted to be. “My [college] experience would not have been as full, without the arts.”
It is through Reedy’s incredible art he is able to start a conversation here at Bates, and for that we are all thankful. Movements like Black Lives Matter, still exist and still deserve to be recognized. This conversation has not ended nor will it be going anywhere any time soon. “To some, my work may be speaking directly to the Black Lives Matter movement through its emphasis on humanizing black bodies; however, I think the way black artists continue to give to the Black Lives Matter movement is by sharing their individual voices in order to bring power and understanding to a united goal — no one person is the same or should be judged as such.” Art acts as a beautiful medium to voice the thousands of opinions; it is through the visual world that messages are able to touch thousands of minds. Artists like Reedy are helping to make that change here at Bates.