Artwork connects past and present

Amanda Sowards

Balaira Sekou looks at “Untitled” by Qu Lei-Lei at the Humanist Art, Symbolic Sites exhibit in the Kent State University Museum Friday. Sekou, who is from Burkina Faso, went with his English as a Second Laguage class. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

An international art exhibition opened at the Kent State University Museum Thursday on its only American stop.

“Humanist Art: Symbolic Sites” features artists from different cultures, societies and beliefs.

Through their artwork, the artists offer insight into challenging and heartbreaking events, exhibition founder William Kelly said. In an essay, Kelly said the exhibit is “a celebration of humanity and possibilities.”

The work is a collection from artists who were impacted in some way by events surrounding them.

“Some have been imprisoned, exiled, vilified, attacked, and others have shared their path,” Kelly said.

The exhibit is a collection of prints and photos with works such as Nick Ut’s “Vietnam Napalm 8 June, 1972” and “The War” by former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel. Subjects range from war protests to planetary life force to personal loss.

Museum director Jean Druesedow said while she didn’t have a favorite, there were a couple images that spoke to her.

“I had two friends die in the 9-11 tragedy, so I really relate to the picture of the woman in front of the twin towers,” Druesedow said.

“Its purpose is to encourage discussion and debate,” she said.

The exhibit also goes hand-in-hand with Kent State’s democratic symposium in May. The symposium will discuss the role of the arts in democracy, Druesedow said.

The exhibit helps show how the past can help people interpret current events, Druesedow said.

“The Vietnam photo could easily be Iraq,” she said.

Each stop was chosen because of events that occurred there and how the community used the events to better society. Kent State was chosen because of May 4 and the university’s response and continuing effort to prevent violence and promote democratic values, according to Kelly’s essay.

The exhibit has also been to Northern Ireland because of the Troubles between Catholics and Protestants and their work towards unity and peace. Because of the bombings by the German Condor Legion in 1937, Spain has also been chosen as a host site.

The exhibit will continue to South Africa, where Apartheid was met with resistance and which has become the founding place of Artists for Human Rights.

The exhibit will be open through May 18. For more information on the artwork visit

Contact fashion reporter Amanda Sowards at [email protected].