Safe Spaces
Safe Spaces

Safe Spaces is a series of photographic diptychs that aim to foster empathy across racial, cultural, and social divides within the college campus. This series is the result of a two-year-long residency, commissioned by Davidson College, with the support of the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

From 2021-2023, I was the Practitioner-In-Residence at Davidson College in Davidson, NC. During my residency, I met with more than 100 students, on campus and via Zoom, for group conversations and one-on-one listening sessions. Drawing from my experiences as a Black woman who attended predominantly white universities, I recalled feeling isolated on campus. There were spaces that I was not welcome, or I was afraid to go. Therefore, I asked the students the following questions about their occupation of space:

What is your space of comfort on campus? Where do you feel seen and heard? Where can you be yourself? Where do you choose not to go on campus?

I connected with students and gained insight into the social dynamics of campus life. The conversations revealed that most students gravitated to individuals who were similar, and in turn, they spent the majority of their time in the same spaces with the same students.

Thus, for the series, I paired students with someone they did not know. Then I asked them to switch places and be photographed in each other’s space of comfort. I wanted the students to reimagine campus life through someone else’s eyes.

The paired students were present for each other’s photo shoots and later wrote about their experiences. In some cases, one person’s space of comfort was the other’s place of discomfort. Despite the discomfort many students experienced while being in another’s space, their exploration of the unfamiliar often led to the realization that we are more similar than we may appear on the surface.

My work often uses art to bring about awareness, which is the first step toward change.

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