University At Buffalo Student Posts “White Only” And “Black Only” Signs For An Art Project

Wendy Stokesby:


Art comes in many forms and sometimes people don’t always “get it.” But for University of Buffalo art student Ashley Powell, the point was to get a reaction when she posted “White Only” and “Black Only” signs over the drinking fountains in the school’s Clemens Hall.

The Spectrum, an independent student publication at UB, reported that Powell admitted to posting the signs in front of more than 70 students in a meeting for the Black Student Union (BSU) on Wednesday. Powell, who is black, did this as part of an art project for her Installation In Urban Spaces class. The assignment required her to create an urban installation involving time, though not necessarily to go back in time.

By Wednesday afternoon, University Police already received 11 calls about the signs. Students also took to social media to express their feelings on this controversial art.

Though Powell declined to speak to The Spectrum directly, she admitted to the BSU that her intent was to get a reaction. “I apologize for hurting people, but I won’t apologize for what I did,” Powell said in the meeting. She also admitted to not asking for permission from the University to post such signs.

Further complicating matters was that a University alert had been sent out the previous Monday, about a possible gunman on campus. When these signs were posted days later, people were concerned that the two incidents were related.

“We didn’t know it was an art project, it could’ve been an act of terrorism,” one student said in the meeting. Other students noted that these signs were awful reminders of past racism. Jefry Taveras, a psychology major put it best: “As an artist, I respect you as an artist. But you should know racism isn’t art, it’s a reality and traumatizing.”

[The Spectrum]

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