To influence others through art is one thing, but to be able to connect with others through art that displays social problems is something that creates conversation.
Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Associate Director of Student Activities Greg Wilkins was recently chosen to be one of nine artists to have his artwork honored by the Washington D.C Gay Men’s Chorus. To do this, the organization will look at Wilkin’s artwork and create a composition and dance influenced by his work.
The event is being hosted through the Gay Men’s Chorus as a part of the Portraits Project. The nine artists’ submissions will be brought to life through music and dance. Wilkins originally found out about the project through an advertisement on Facebook and decided to submit a piece.
“Once I got enough information, I put together several images and artist statements and I submitted it, not knowing how many artists would be involved in the process,” said Wilkins. “I didn’t know it was going to be an international call.”
Over 400 submissions from around the world were considered for the project. When Wilkins found out that he was chosen, he was delighted.
“It’s humbling, as some of the other artists who were chosen are some of the best in the field and to be in such great company is such a huge honor, particularly for someone who has not formally studied art or gone to a fancy art school,” shared Wilkins. “To just pick up [art] through natural instinct, it makes me beam to be rubbing shoulders with such giants.”
Wilkins’ portrait is titled “Black Lives Matter: Keep Your Eye on the Prize.” The portrait depicts a woman of African descent remembering her past. She’s blind in one eye, her other eye looking to a future of social justice and equity for all, while a target scope of a gun trained on it. Wilkins was inspired to create the piece to spark conversation after George Floyd’s death and social injustice.
“I used art as a way to express myself and to bring additional conversation to others, so when they saw the image it might help generate conversation,” said Wilkins. “It’s wild that [society] still deals with racism in this great nation.”
While the premiere of the Portraits project isn’t opening until June 2024, Wilkins is hoping that viewers will recognize that his portrait is only one component of the entire work.
“[I hope] it will create conversation and dialogue, focusing on social justice and how people, regardless of the walk of life they’re coming from, that they might be able to be engaged and they will be able to bring their own voice to issues of importance in their local communities and then resonating out into the global community,” shared Wilkins.
Wilkins encourages those who are interested in creating and showing on grand scales such as this to find their niche and to keep pursuing their dreams.
“It’s going to take perseverance and community and by connecting lots of different voices to opportunities, you can shine brightly,” said Wilkins. “I encourage all artists, regardless of age or ability to keep on [creating art] because you never know where that spark of joy might ignite. Create a forest fire of opportunity and dialogue for others to come and create change.”
Header Photo: MSU’s Associate Director of Student Activities Greg Wilkins is one of nine artists to have his artwork honored by Washinton D.C’s Gay Men’s chorus. A composition and dance will be influenced by his artwork. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)
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