'GHETTO: A Retail Art Installation' Travels to Canada

ArtStreet and the Institute for Arts Nexus’ impactful and provocative installation, “GHETTO: A Retail Art Installation,” will have its international premiere at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The installation will launch on February 23, 2016 and run through March 15.

The installation doubles as a retail art experience, allowing students to interact with the exhibition in a more unique way. It features different articles of luxury brand GHETTO merchandise mingled with imagery, artifacts and other elements that reference historically impacted ghettos throughout the world.

“By using the retail store as a gateway to unpacking the layers of meaning of GHETTO, it allows us as a creative team to dive into some pretty interesting and dark juxtapositions: the frivolity of luxury fashion and the dark underbelly of the word ‘ghetto,’” said Rodney Veal, GHETTO fashion designer and cultural instigator.

GHETTO will stay true to the ArtStreet and the Institute for Arts Nexus (IAN)’s mission and vision as it will hopefully serve as a catalyst to student conversations and further challenge the unyielding cultural tendency to misuse the term “ghetto.” The word has a long historical significance and it still has a powerful effect on people’s perceptions.

“Our goal is to always have different conversations flowing,” said ArtStreet and IAN director Brian LaDuca.

Talks to tour GHETTO internationally began shortly after the launch of the installation at the University of Dayton in February 2015. After reaching out to several universities with a similar “student neighborhood” structure as the University of Dayton, Queen’s University ultimately became the destination for this ground-breaking piece.

“I had seen the installation pieces through photographs and videos and my first thought was ‘Holy Cow!’ The pieces are so powerfully delicate and forces the audience to dig deeper than the surface to understand what message it carries; much like the word ‘ghetto,’” said Alex Chung, Social Issues Commissioner for the Alma Mater Society at Queen’s.

The Social Issues Commission of the Alma Mater Society at Queen’s University is sponsoring the installation. The Social Issues Commission aims to speak to issues of equity while engaging with oppression at Queen’s. They seek to provide students with resources and education as well as offer an open, safe space for those who face oppression and their allies.

When asked about how the use of the word “ghetto” has impacted the Queen’s community, Chung said, “The term alludes to the idea that the living conditions [in the student ‘ghetto’] are ‘poor’ and thus equivalent to a real ‘ghetto.’ This has been identified as an inherently flawed association, and ultimately, a cultural flaw in the way that we: a) understand the term ‘ghetto’ and b) have lowered our standards of living and respect for the greater community.”

In order to remedy the lowered standards and dwindling respect, the Municipal Affairs Commission at the university proposed to re-brand the “student ghetto” to the “University District,” much like the University of Dayton has made strides to re-brand “the ghetto” to the “South Student Neighborhood.” At UD, there has been some resistance from the student body to the re-branding. Students at Queen’s University have been mostly receptive to the change, but there is still some use of “ghetto” in their everyday conversations, according to Chung.

The installation will be displayed in the campus’ most popular coffeehouse in order to impact and engage the greatest number of students and community members possible. The spirit of collaboration that is so crucial to ArtStreet and IAN is slowly taking shape at Queen’s University for this installation. The Social Issues Commission is looking at the possibility of engaging the Fine Arts Department at Queen’s to incorporate the installation into some of their curriculum.

While on display at the University of Dayton, GHETTO sparked more than a few conversations throughout campus and its impact is still being felt today. When asked what she hopes the impact of installation becomes at Queen’s, Chung said, “I am hopeful that this powerful installation will serve as a reminder to students that creative expression has the ability to incite progressive conversations and ultimately, change.”

The Institute for Arts Nexus at ArtStreet seeks to empower a forward-thinking 21st century student with the ability to confidently develop the imaginative and creative skills necessary to excel and impact today’s innovative and global workforce regardless of degree focus.

Hosting six world premiere installations annually, ArtStreet's White Box Gallery at the University of Dayton is dedicated to work that challenges social, industrial, cultural and academic perspectives. This year’s focus is on our daily climate — and our elemental responses to our environment. From the origins of want and need, to the fear of loss, the Gallery will focus on themes of THIRST, CONSUMPTION, FEAR, UPHEAVAL, REFLECTION and CHANGE.

ArtStreet is located in the heart of the South Student Neighborhood on the University of Dayton campus. For more information about ArtStreet and the Institute for Arts Nexus, call 937-229-5101 or visit udayton.edu/artstreet.

Press release written by Maggie Fiegl '15. 

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