The Benton Museum adds to the race conversation with its new exhibit

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, presidential debates discussing race and the University of Connecticut’s own experiences with racial tensions, the Benton Museum’s new exhibit adds to the conversation through art.

The museum’s interactive exhibit entitled, “Difference: Reflections on Race,” features a large poster on the wall in which students can take color-coded stickers representing their viewpoints: “neutral,” “disagree” or “agree”; place them in different boxed-in statements.  Students directly change the art and allow it to evolve with every response—the art molds into the beliefs of its viewers.

“This is definitely an important exhibition for right now in history…I think the most important thing we can do is talk about the different aspects of race. There are certainly problems even here on campus regarding race, and all over the country,” said Gregory Bicknell, an eighth-semester mechanical engineering student and gallery attendant at the Benton.

Based on the stickers displayed on the board, the quotes with the most disagreement were, “Race is not a barrier to accomplishments” and “Having a black president shows that minorities have the same opportunities as whites.”

In observing different people visiting the exhibit, Bicknell said, “People are mostly taken aback that it’s sort of an interactive exhibition—that they can put stickers on the wall.”

Of the quotes on the board, the most split was, “I was raised in a family that talked about race,” and yet the most agreed upon quote was, “I believe we should talk more openly about bias.” To clarify, there was not one “disagree” or “neutral” sticker placed on the quote. No matter students’ exposure to the issues growing up, or their opinions of the state of racial relations at UConn and the country at large, the desire to talk more about it was unanimous.

The exhibit also contains a multimedia aspect, with a projected video displaying quotes regarding racial acceptance such as “Under the skin is what matters.”

“The Benton always has different kinds of medias for their art. A lot of times we’ll have projectors, a lot of times we’ll have videos. It’s adding another layer to art, making it more interactive and more visitor friendly,” said Bicknell.

The student made exhibition “Difference: Reflections on Race” is fresh, relevant and encourages its audience to get involved. The exhibit opened January 21 and will remain viewable through March 13.

“This I think is one of the best things that a university museum can do—to create an exhibition with students,” said Nancy Stula, executive director of the Benton Museum of Art.

Stula worked on this exhibition more as a curator and said that although two professors shepherded the project through, it was a collaboration within the school of fine arts between digital media and design and graphic arts students.

Bicknell talked about why the exhibit is relevant for its time, due to its dealings with racial bias. “The most important thing we can do is talk about it,” said Bicknell.


Brett Steinberg is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brett.steinberg@uconn.edu. He tweets @OfficialBrett.