“This is a push to diversify the art scene in Lowell,” reads the Facebook event listing for “Shut Up…And Listen,” a group exhibition featuring black and Hispanic artists on view at High Five Arts in Lowell for the month of February.
Derrick Jamison, the artist who curated the show, tells me, “There are a lot of big galleries here in Lowell and I don’t see anything that’s diversified.”
The problem, as he sees it, “It’s either outreach or interest in putting up your work. Some people just really go outside Lowell to find great artists. … Or they don’t know where to go or where to look.”
“They don’t see that Lowell can have a very vibrant artists community,” he says. “But it does.”
Jamison grew up in Springfield, studied at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, graduating in 2015, then moved to Lowell a couple years back. “I’ve always doodled. I was always doing it on the side of my papers in school,” he says. Jamison makes realistic paintings with social commentary—about the “robbing and stealing” over sneakers, about “People always want to touch my dreds.” Without his permission. “I have to tell them it’s not a petting zoo.”
Some of the other artists in the exhibition include Nygel Jones, who paints Afro-punk utopias (detail pictured at top), and Michael Aghahowa, who Jamison says depicts his family in symbolic ways.
The title of the show comes from a 2012 Ted Talk by economic development consultant Ernesto Sirolli. “He just talks about how people just come into communities and they think they already know what people need,” Jamison says. “If people would shut up and listen, you’d find out what people need and want.”
If Jamison’s push is successful, how might the Lowell art scene look different? “I think I would see more young people of color putting up their work. So maybe representations of myself, darker skins, maybe something more modern, maybe graffiti. … More about social issues that are going on around Lowell and around America right now.”
“There’s a lot of fluff art,” Jamison says of the Lowell art scene now. “Art is a statement and I believe you can make a lot of difference when it comes down to a picture.”
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