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Fall art exhibition presents pieces covering social justice topics

Texas Woman’s University’s staff and faculty are holding their fall 2021 exhibition from Aug. 23 to Sept. 17 titled “Lingua Franca.” The exhibition includes art by Christine Adame, Alex Epps, Meg Griffiths, Sara Ishii, Julie Libersat, Colby Parsons, Sheli Peterson, Tanya Synar, Giovanni Valderas, and Blake Weld. Terri Thornton, the curator of education at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, curated this exhibit 

“The theme is highlighting the faculty and the staff, exhibiting their work and their expertise, inspiring the new incoming students and setting a nice precedent for the work that the teachers and the faculty in the college are doing,” gallery assistant Caitlin Spencer said.

The exhibit contains mediums varying from paintings to photography and more. The exhibition gives a chance to see what work the faculty and staff are doing and how their act of creating art regardless of medium ties them all together, Spencer said. 

Photo by Sarah Pham

Dr. Sara Ishii is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and visiting assistant professor of art history at TWU. She presented pieces exploring social justice issues such as interpersonal violence, verbal, and emotional abuse. 

“These topics like interpersonal violence are really heavy, hard to discuss topics and so in my work, bringing in craft items like pearls and beads and nail polish is very attractive and eye-catching, which draws the viewer into a difficult conversation and hopefully makes it more invitational to start these hard discussions,” Ishii said.

She said in addition to social justice topics that she likes to break down the fine art hierarchy and show that works made with crafting materials are just as valid as fine arts. A core piece of the exhibit is the way that it can bridge the faculty with the students, TWU community, the larger DFW community and beyond, she said.

“The students are amazing,” Ishii said. “They’re so creative and open-minded and the faculty is really warm and it’s just such a healthy environment. There’s a lot of potential for growth and I couldn’t imagine it being any better.”

Photo by Sarah Pham

Ishii said she would love for everyone even if they’re not in visual arts majors to take one of the art classes or come to the exhibition openings. Spencer said that although the department is small, the department has many well-educated and interesting professors in their areas like ceramics, photography, and art history.

Also in the exhibit is Sheli Petersen, a professor with over 20 years of experience teaching visual arts. She is experienced in design, illustration, animation, etc with her most recent focus being in children’s book design.

“[Picture books] are a very sophisticated art form and I think a lot of people underestimate it because they think, oh it was for kids, so it must be fun and easy,” Petersen said.

According to Petersen, there’s an incredible amount of time, research and editing that goes into making a picture book. She was grateful for this exhibit and that Thornton was understanding the collective goal of making the exhibition educational. In the exhibit, she documented her picture book project, Arnie and Zippy.

Thornton will give a talk during the closing reception Sept. 16. Additionally, students will host a podcast interviewing the different faculty in the exhibit to be posted on the TWU visual arts Instagram account. 

Maddie Ray can be reached via email at

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