Director, Stamps Gallery, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design
Through her leadership, Srimoyee Mitra has reiterated her firm commitment to intersectional racial justice by fostering vibrant and inclusive platforms for dialogue and inquiry, strengthening the Stamps Gallery’s outreach and work through presenting and curating works and artists that draw on knowledge systems outside the colonial and hegemonic canons. She obtained a grant that resulted in Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative which recognizes the creativity, rigor, and innovation of Michigan-based artists and collaboratives and they recently curated an exhibition highlighting the Flint Water Crisis -telling stories of resilience, self-determination, and grassroots activism to access safe and affordable water and the fight for environmental justice. Srimoyee actively engages the Stamps student community through Respond, Resist, Rethink, an annual curated exhibit that highlights student works aligned with intersectional justice. Srimoyee’s work and values deeply situate themselves with Dr. King’s vision and work – encouraging activism that sparks change through the arts.
Being your best DEI self: Think of a time when you were at your best at advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened? Who was there? Why did you feel at your best?
“This Fall Semester (2022), I organized a multi-part exhibition “LaToya Ruby Frazier: Flint Is Family In Three Acts” at Stamps Gallery. This exhibition brought 5 years of work by documentary photographer Frazier where she collaborated with 2 flint residents (Shea Cobb and Amber Hasan who are mothers, activists, and poets) and their families to record their stories of resilience, loss, and thriving in spite of the devastating manmade ecological crises of contamination of the Flint Water. To bring this monumental series to Stamps Gallery we developed a partnership with MSU, Broad Art Museum & Flint Institute of Arts, as this story is relevant to audiences across the state and beyond. On September 15, 2022, we opened this exhibition to the public at Stamps Gallery. We worked hard to make sure that Cobb, Hasan, and their families were present at the opening along with the artist. We reached out to faculty members and students across units in UM Ann Arbor, U-M Flint, and to students at MSU with the help of our partners there. The opening brought over 160+ public audiences, which included community members from Flint, a diverse student body that spanned first years to fourth years graduate students from across UM as well as faculty, and arts audiences from southeast Michigan and beyond. During the opening, Frazier spoke about how she viewed her role as an artist as a conduit to amplify the stories and perspectives of those who have been historically marginalized and subject to systemic oppression. Cobb and Hasan spoke about their grassroot organizing to bring clean and safe water to their community, while the city and state officials failed them. Highlighting their voices and knowledge as Black women in Flint who have sustained their communities in Flint, where people of color, LGBTQIA communities, and those living under the poverty line have been consistently left behind by the infrastructural upgrades that have taken place across the city. Frazier is a beacon of the role of an artist in catalyzing real change. By that token at Stamps Gallery, I’ve been working consistently to develop an art program that provides an equitable platform for diverse perspectives and ideas through the lens of art & design that do not perpetuate the hegemonies in the field. Through this exhibition and associated programs, we were able to facilitate and generate equitable and mutually respectful dialogues across diverse community members and audiences that have been sustained and empowering to first generations of students of art and design, the Flint communities represented in the photographs and also on the power of art to create change in our society.”
In envisioning the future, how would you describe progress in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion? What might it look like?
“The future where we have progressed in the realm of DEI would include the following:
– An apology to Black, Indigenous and Japanese communities for slavery, colonial genocide and internment camps, respectively
– Develop protocols for reconciliation and restorative justice where American Histories can be revisited from Black, Indigenous, and migrant perspectives that can be implemented locally and diverse communities
– Highlight Indigenous, Black knowledge systems and contributions to American Culture and society across fields.
– Where DEI concerns are embedded into curriculum and classrooms, ensuring that every faculty and staff has anti-oppression training
– Creating spaces for scholars from different fields to share ideas, research and their diverse approaches to similar themes so we can move beyond our silos and begin to envision what a sustainable and shared future might look like.”
What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the MLK Spirit Awards?
“It is a great honor to be nominated for the MLK Spirit Awards! It is a reinforcement of the vitality of the work that we have been developing at Stamps Gallery. I grateful to my team and colleagues at the Gallery and Stamps school for their support and hard work.”