Summer 2020

Message from the Dean

Dear Arts and Sciences Alumni and Friends,

Dean David Powers in his basement during the 2020 pandemicI write to you in the midst of the most significant series of events for our college, the university, the nation and indeed the world in at least a generation. The College has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic with a full migration of courses, meetings and events to virtual format. We have developed plans toward some measure of opening campus in the fall. At the same time, we are being realistic about how the failure to contain the virus nationwide impacts the volume and nature in-person activity we can have in the fall, even with thorough precautions in place.

Our faculty and staff worked incredibly hard to support our students in a virtual environment and faculty have committed large parts of this (shorter-than-usual) summer to learning how to create even richer and more vibrant virtual learning experiences for our students. Across the university, over 300 faculty have taken additional training through our Center for Digital Learning and Innovation to support students with a range of virtual tools and techniques. I have every confidence in their ability to provide an excellent experience for our students in the face of whatever circumstances will be. 

We also recognize and are engaging the dramatically expanded awareness of continued racist violence and institutional racism across the United States. We are looking at what education we can provide and what actions we can take against violence and against the underlying institutional racism on which it is based and which it supports. Awareness and action have grown across the country and the world, in the Seattle region and "on" our campus even as we operate virtually.

It is part of our mission to help students become leaders in creating a more just and humane world; recognizing racism and addressing it in anti-racist ways are critical to truly making the world more just for everyone in our country. The college is working to improve both our curriculum and our college culture. We have several expert scholars on racism, institutional racism and anti-racist work in the College of Arts and Sciences. We will be sharing our new College Strategic Plan in the fall; it calls for us to work even more toward Inclusive Academic Excellence, as called for by the 2016 report by the Seattle University Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence and the new University Strategic Directions. The College of Arts & Sciences is poised to be a leader in addressing these issues and as the Dean of the College I am committed to moving ahead in concrete ways.


In This Issue

Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art From Saint Louis

Online Exhibition through August 2

The exhibition brings together work by Dominic Chambers, Damon Davis, Jen Everett, De Nichols, and Katherine Simone Reynolds. The exhibition is curated by Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD, Assistant Professor in Arts Leadership at Seattle University and supported by Hedreen Gallery and the Pigott Family Endowment for the Arts.

artwork with radiator, flowers and paintingMolly Mac, Hedreen Gallery Curator, explains,"Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis is an art and interview-driven exhibition project that counters legacies of anti-Blackness in mainstream art historical scholarship and theories of abstraction. After over a year of planning for the physical show (and with several of the exhibition artworks already in transit from Saint Louis to Seattle), the exhibition’s curatorial team made a rapid effort to pivot the exhibition to an online format in response to the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the dynamic leadership of curator Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD, and the generous participation by the five artists whose work is included in the show, the online version of this exhibition and public programs have become a catalyst for public conversation and organizing between the artists and scholars engaged in the project. We especially appreciate the dedication of the curatorial team of Seattle University Arts Leadership and Art History students and alumni, whose flexibility and care made this project possible."

Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art From Saint Louis, continues online through Sunday, August 2, and may be found here. Members of the public are invited to deepen their experience with the exhibition in these final virtual events:

Friday, July 24, 11 a.m. PT

  • Guided Tour with curator Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD. 30 minute tour followed by 30 minute Q&A: Register here (required)

artwork with speakers and tape recorderThursday, July 30, noon-2.p.m. PT (2-4 p.m. CST, 3-5 p.m. EST) via Zoom

  • “Reimagining possibilities for being, belonging, and togetherness”: Conversations & Closing Reception: A dialogue among exhibition artists and scholars writing for the forthcoming exhibition reader, followed by a virtual reception. Registration here (required)
  • Schedule:
    • 12 – 12:05pm: Opening from Molly Mac, SU Galleries Curator and Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, Curator
    • 12:05 – 12:20pm: Kemi Adeyemi, University of Washington, in dialogue with Katherine Simóne Reynolds
    • 12:20 – 12:35pm: Nijah Noel Cunningham, Hunter College, in dialogue with Damon Davis
    • 12:35 – 12:50pm: Rebecca Wanzo, Washington University in St. Louis, in dialogue with Jen Everett
    • 12:50 – 1:05pm: Azzurra Cox, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol in dialogue with De Nichols
    • 1:05 – 1:20pm: Rikki Byrd, Northwestern University in dialogue with Dominic Chambers
    • 1:30 – 2pm: Reception with audience in conversation with artists and scholars

Saturday, August 1 at 10-11:30am PT via zoom. Register here (required)

  • Youth Virtual Field Trip. Geared towards youth aged 10-18 (and open to all including parents and community members), this facilitated artistic/educational experience applies lessons from each exhibition artist to fostered creativity, imagination, and a commitment to anti-racism. Led by Ashley Marshall, Education Assistant, Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis, and MFA Student, Seattle University.

From the Curator

Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arts Leadership

From 2016 to 2018, I worked as the Postdoctoral Fellow in Inequality and Identity in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, a very arts-rich city. There, I became really interested in a growing cohort of Black artists whose work was incredibly stirring, and often engaged with the murder of Michael Brown and the Black Lives Matter movement around Ferguson.  So, I decided to conduct research for a book about this work and started interviewing artists, including Damon Davis, Jen Everett, and De Nichols, three of the five artists in this exhibition.

Shortly after I arrived at Seattle U, Molly Mac and I were talking about the book over lunch, and she said, 'Why don't you curate a show about this for the Hedreen Gallery?'

Abstract artwork in blues and redsOriginally, the book was going to be called Acts of Black Citizenship. When we think about U.S. history, one of the ways in which racism has continued is by racist artistic representations of Black people, including Blackface minstrelsy which began in the 19th, and grew to become the most popular form of theatre in that century. I was thinking of anti-racist representations of Black people by Black people as the acts of Black citizenship. I leaned heavily on scholar Salamishah Tillet who thinks about art as a central form for Black people to express their citizenship as they have long been denied their full rights.

But as I began to curate and talk to the artists, 'act' became 'abstraction,' as this work is not just representational, it is also often conceptual and aspirational. In the show I highlight themes -- shine, citizenship, growth, beauty, reading & leisure, the sonic, and quietness & interiority -- to make sense of the concepts, ideas, and practices surrounding the work of these artists. Abstraction also borrows heavily from curator Adrienne Edwards who asks about the burdens we put on Black artists to uphold blackness and confront racism. Abstraction allowed me to ask the show's central questions, including: 'How might an attention to abstraction make aesthetic, geographic, and political space for Black presence and citizenship?' 

That question also animates the geographic location and history of St. Louis, as a city and region that spans Missouri and Illinois. St. Louis, MO is in the center of the U.S. geographically, bordering the Mississippi River, where enslaved people were sold downriver; the region is the site of so much thinking about race and citizenship in the US.  One hundred years ago, St. Louis, MO was the fourth most populous city in the United States. Two hundred years ago, Missouri became the northernmost slave state.  St. Louis became the site of the emergence of the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court case that decided in 1857, a few years before the Civil War erupted, that Black people would never be US citizens. More recently, Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, MO in St. Louis County.

Before the pandemic, Molly and I were thinking about what might it mean to bring St. Louis artists to the Seattle arts community, and to have an intercity city dialogue. We pivoted to the virtual exhibition space as soon as it became apparent that we would not be able to mount the show physically in Seattle.

Another very important component of this exhibition is the participation of Seattle U students and alumni. Ashley Marshall, a current MFA in Arts Leadership student, is our Education Assistant and wrote the K-8 Education Guide, and is leading the Youth Virtual Field Trip in August. Meilani Mandery, BA, Art History and Arts Leadership, 2020, wrote our Youth Education Guide.  Ellen McGivern, MFA in Arts Leadership, 2019, created the Adult Education Guide. Both Meilani and Ellen also served as Curatorial Assistants. Dev McCauley, BA in Design with Honors, 2020, provided brilliant graphic design. Their talents and perspective contributed greatly to the exhibition. 

Meet the Artists

The exhibition website offers the opportunity to meet the five artists in virtual studio tours, which you can find here.

(photos go here)

Education Guides

Visitors have the opportunity to explore the exhibit themes and learn more about the artists with a variety of educational materials. While some are designed for younger audiences, they will all engage adult audiences, as well.

Photo credits (top to bottom): Katherine Simóne Reynolds, Mending Keloid 1 (2020). Image courtesy of the artist. Jen Everett, Unheard Sounds, Come Through (2019). Image courtesy of the artist. Damon Davis, Negrophilia 78 (2015). Image courtesy of the artist.


Imagining the World

The Imagining the World: Study Abroad and International Photography Competition highlights the College’s – and the University’s – participation in the global community. Demonstrating the Ignatian principles of self-reflection and discernment, our students and faculty capture more than a moment in their experiences—they share with us a very personal window into the world.

Our Imagining The World exhibition is usually presented at the Kinsey Gallery on campus. With the restrictions on public gatherings, the exhibition is presented virtually this year.

Visit the exhibition here

View and order the exhibition book, including the photographers' statements here

Collage of award winning photosOur students, faculty, and staff who participate in the university’s study abroad program are encouraged to look beyond the surface during their time in different countries. Their images illustrate a truly authentic connection with the people and places visited. International students attending Seattle U share their personal perspectives of Seattle, the Pacific Northwest, and other parts of the United States. They reflect back images of the country in which the university resides, providing their interpretation of our “home.” The photo entries come from all Seattle U schools and colleges, and include short essays from the photographers, providing the viewer more context and greater insight into their experiences. The winners of this year’s competition:

Study Abroad Winners

  • First Place: Malia Nakamura, Senior, Marketing and Management
  • Second Place: Nikolas Marsolini, Senior, Criminal Justice and Photography
  • Third Place: Maeve Mugglebee, Sophomore, International Studies and Photography

International Student Winners

  • First Place: Marco Sunaryo, Home: Indonesia, Senior, BA in Business Administration, Marketing
  • Second Place: Jaidev Vella, Home: India, Sophomore, BABA, Business Management
  • Third Place: Yibo Sheng, Home: China, Junior, Computer Science

Faculty Winner

  • Sean McDowell, PhD, Department: English and University Honors, Program: Writers' Workshop in Ireland

The College of Arts and Sciences is committed to the formation of national and global citizens who are equipped to lead justly and humanely. We encourage our students to engage deeply with diverse cultures around the world through faculty-led programs abroad, language and international studies, partnerships around the globe, service learning, student and faculty exchanges, internships, and Xavier Global House. Arts and Sciences has led the university in its effort to develop an international focus.


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