In this digital exclusive, visual artist and co-curator of “Something Extraordinary” Imo Imeh shares with us his vision behind the exhibition and how this project embodies community in the art world.

Learn more about “Something Extraordinary” in part 1 of our interview with artists JaJa Swinton, Tara Gorman, and Kahli Hernandez.

Read the full transcript:

Imo Imeh, Artist/Educator: I knew some months ago in the summer of 20–2022 that I wanted this to take place. In part, you know, we are we are all currently post-pandemic, if — if, right? We’re at this moment where the world is opening up again. We’re — we’re trying to figure — figure out what that means and what it looks like and how to feel about it.

And I — I’ve been on a crazy artistic run myself, just with my own personal studio projects. And I wanted to be in dialog with a number of other artists whom I consider extraordinary in their own ways.

I think something that the pandemic did for us, is it forced us to slow down a little. And…this exhibit is — is an attempt to cause the viewer to pause and reflect on the stories of eight individuals, but stories that are really curated in a way where you see cross-pollination of ideas and themes. And that was my hope. And I think that we’ve achieved this here.

As much as I’m one of the curators of this show, in many ways it has been artist run. They brought their ideas as well into this conversation and made it what it is. The notion of slowing down, right? this post pandemic pause is really to cause people to reflect in a way that we were engaged reflection during the pandemic.

There was a way that and I have to go back to themes that are big in the Black community right now because they have not completely gone away. But that video footage of George Floyd, the video footage of Ahmaud Arbery, the things that we were learning, the social justice issues, the health crisis issues, there was a way that the pandemic caused us to reflect slowly about these things. Wherever you were politically, wherever you were, socially and economically, you had to — you had to look.

And I don’t like how fast the world is opening up again because we’re losing that sense of reflection. And so my hope is that with this exhibit, which is not a Black History Month exhibit, right, this is an exhibit about eight artists who happen to be artists of the African diaspora who are in conversation with each other, who are being very, very vulnerable about their individual stories, stories that wind up translating universally.

And so, if — if for two months, you know, here in the Arno Maris gallery at Westfield State, we can cause a pandemic style pause, where people look and just pause and think about where they are in these stories — if that happens, then this would have been  — this will be an amazing success.