December 17, 2015

Montana’s Creativity Movement gives credence to a narrative of entitlement, intolerance and totalitarianism. The movement’s disgust for anyone outside the white race is critical to acknowledge because hatred isn’t just foreign but domestic.

Out of this destructive ideological propaganda emerge individuals united to offer a learning experience in promoting equality among race, gender, religion and economic class while lessening dogmatic misinformation.

A leader of the white supremacist group defected in 2004, leaking over 4,000 volumes of the organization’s bible including anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and racist content to the Montana Human Rights Network. The purchased copies were distributed amongst 39 nationally and regionally known artists with the intent to respond and represent a moment in history through art.

The exhibit, “Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate” is on display through Dec. 18 at University of New Haven’s (UNH) Seton Art Gallery. Around 80 students, faculty and community artists came to the opening of the show Nov. 11, which features 46 pieces.

Laura Marsh, director of the Seton Art Gallery, brought the show to UNH to “attempt to diffuse, shift, and transform how we think about the nature of hate,” she said. “The premise of the show is taking racist texts out of the hands of the oppressors and putting them into the welcoming hands of creators.”

After the gallery fell short of bringing in a show about race, Marsh set out to make sure this area of interest was represented.

“My mission is to foster our community and bring academics together with people who want to be engaged with art and working artists,” said Marsh. “I believe in supporting the artist’s perspective, and this show allows breathing room for many points of view.”

Walking through the exhibit that first opened in 2008 is thought-provoking and infuriating. The gallery is powerful and difficult to process because of the extreme rhetoric that filled these books; a blatant disregard for dissenting opinion.

“The books make you feel angry and disgusted,” she said. “It is through the varied processes of making art that new channels of communication emerge. I think viewers are impacted by the range of media in the show.”

Miguel Guillen’s “The Cooling Table” displays the word “Hate” on a batch of cookies. Baked goods are usually marked with jovial greetings, instead we come across a statement of how hate grows domestically.

“You see that some artists decide to work with direct passages from the texts, others use the materiality of the book as an art medium, and some artists choose not to use the actual book but to respond to historical events,” she said.

The gallery’s timing is fitting as hate pervades our nation. Mass shooting continue to spawn, and conflict with the Islamic State produces a globally generalized prejudice toward the Muslim population.

“The exhibit makes the statement that artists have the power to shift perspectives and lobby for productive thoughts and actions,” she said. “I believe the best exhibits ask questions and search for answers.”

American’s aren’t immune to disparaging behavior, and this realization has the power to make visitors rethink their own prejudices, a practice the show’s founders could only hope for.