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Student-led UW art exhibit aims to deepen diversity, equity and inclusion conversation

The art show was already in the works when the Wyoming Legislature targeted such programming during the 2024 budget session.

"New West," watercolor, by John Keeling. (Courtesy)

When the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees met in March, members told concerned stakeholders they’d work to protect what lawmakers had just put on the chopping block — the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and related programming. 

“Broad brush, generalistic statements,” had led to misunderstandings about campus and its services, one trustee said. 

“Tribal Legacy,” acrylic, by Ricardo Islas. (Courtesy)

A student-led art exhibit opening Friday is intended to explore the finer details.

“Diversity Unveiled: An American Mosaic” was dreamt up and curated by Gerald Lovato, an artist and graduate student in the American Studies program.

Art is a powerful tool, Lovato told WyoFile. 

“I think this will allow us a chance to have those conversations about what this bill means,” Lovato told WyoFile, referring to the Legislature’s decision to restrict UW from spending state money, endowments or matching funds on the DEI office and DEI resources. Gov. Mark Gordon vetoed the prohibition on funding DEI resources. 

“Hyacinth,” oil on canvas, by Julie Atkinson. (Courtesy)

“I feel like DEI gets a bad rap for being almost anti-white, or becoming an institution that excludes certain populations,” Lovato said. “So I wanted to include everyone, not just students of color.”

Lovato put out a national call for submissions last fall and the show includes artists from 20 different states. 

Friday’s event is twofold, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a keynote presentation at UW’s Visual Arts Building by Jen Delos Reyes, the associate dean of diversity and equity at Cornell University. 

An opening reception will follow at UW’s Cooper House at 6:30 p.m. The exhibit will be on display until April 21.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.