The Color-Brave Photo Project: Black and Brown Faces, a New Narrative is a traveling exhibition of 20 portraits presented by Fit Oshkosh. The portraits were taken by photographer Colleen Bies, a Hmong-American and Oshkosh native, and the photos are accompanied by stories about the subjects’ lives and why they call Oshkosh home. The exhibition debuts in the Conservatory of the Paine Art Center and Gardens Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 22 with free admission and programs for the public.
The Color-Brave Photo Project will enable the Oshkosh community and region to shift some common, community-wide stereotypes about people of color, to explore the negative impacts these false narratives have on the entire community, and to celebrate black and brown residents.
“The goal of this project is to overcome false ideas about why people of color live in Oshkosh,” according to Tracey Robertson, executive director of Fit Oshkosh. “Some of these ideas are that people of color come here from ‘hoods’ of Milwaukee or Chicago, that they only moved here to be students or staff at the university, or that they are staff members at the prison or family members of a prisoner. The last example is the most damaging and the most alarming.”
The exhibition will travel to 10 locations in the Fox Valley, and there will be guided discussions called “Color-Brave Conversations” at each location. Fit Oshkosh will help schools schedule field trips for middle schools, high schools and university students to visit and explore the project. A book and videos will also be created to further share the photos and stories.
Aaron Sherer, Executive Director of the Paine, says, “Art and storytelling are among the best ways to help make the world a better place, and the portraits and stories in this project will help make our community a better place for all of us.”
The grant-funded project is supported by the Wisconsin Humanities Council and the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. The Paine Art Center and Gardens is a collaborating partner, and faculty and students of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh have contributed to the project. Fit Oshkosh’s mission is to make the city a place where everyone, regardless of racial identity, “fits” in, is valued and is treated with respect and dignity