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Student Art Exhibition Highlights Social Justice

Painting of three human figures with flowers sprouting

“‘Equality in Bloom” by Micah Terry

Las Vegas, NM – The current virtual exhibition at New Mexico Highlands’ Ray Drew Gallery explores the concepts of justice, resilience, identity, and growth through the artwork of the university’s social work students.

The virtual exhibition, Envisioning Social Justice, on display through June 18 on the Ray Drew Gallery webpage at http://galleries.nmhu.edu/ray-drew-gallery, began as a student art contest.

“Social work is about recognizing the strengths and resilience that people bring to the challenges they face, and this year has definitely been a tough time for all,” said Amy Messex, a faculty member in the Facundo Valdez School of Social Work who helped organize the student art competition. “Creativity and the arts can bring people together to express themselves and share something meaningful.”

Originally, the artwork competition was to provide thought-provoking imagery to the School of Social Work’s student lounge in the university’s Albuquerque center. When the school’s dean and contest judge, Cristina Durán, saw the entries, she wanted the artworks to be appreciated by a wider audience.

“What struck me most about the art pieces selected was the very thoughtful and creative manner in which the themes of social justice and human rights were reflected in their respective works, including racial, gender and economic justice,” Durán said. “They did a phenomenal job.”

The exhibition features several mediums, from Joey Jimenez Jr.’s “Spring of Change,” a photograph of empty dirt lot pierced by a sign with a drawn COVID mask, to Alicia Arias’ “Together,” a mixed-media composition reminiscent of 1970’s protest art, to the contest winner Micah Terry’s “Equality in Bloom,” an acrylic painting depicting her statement, “this piece conveys the beauty of humans while also showing growth and promoting equity.”

Messex said this was the first year the school had an art contest, and the organizers thought they wouldn’t have any submissions.

The exhibition also includes work by students Alyssa Romero, Alicia Spear, Andrea Gurule, Ashley Lovato, Cherie LaVassaur, Cristy M. Johnson, and Diane Luna.

“We were excited when our students rose to the challenge and there were so many artworks submitted,” Messex said. “We definitely intend to hold another student art contest in the future. Social work students bring so much passion and creativity to their work in the community, and it’s wonderful to be able to share these personal visions of social justice in the world.”