Otterbein Art Gallery Exhibitions Put Social Justice Issues on Display

Posted Nov 09, 2020

The Otterbein Department of Art and Art History has opened the University’s museum and gallery spaces this year to the issues of labor justice, the poor working-class, immigration, systemic racism and mothering in poverty with three new exhibitions.  

According to Museum and Galleries Director Janice Glowski, the Department wants students to ask where they see themselves in the art, the stories and the exhibition themes. They hope students will allow themselves to be open to change and being uncomfortable because that, Glowski said, is when the greatest learning occurs. 

“Part of Otterbein’s educational mission is to train students to think critically, clearly, and in an informed way about the narratives that dominate our social discourse,” said Glowski. “But importantly, we are asking the viewer to question, to look deeper into their understandings and to ask themselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions.” 

As part of the Otterbein & the Arts: Opening Doors to the World program, the three exhibitions — “Magda Parasidis: Ghosts in Sunlight,” “On(c)es Forgotten” and “Valentino Dixon: Journey to Freedom” — are challenging long-held assumptions about poverty, race and our country’s history. These exhibitions are meant to question the single narrative by directly addressing social issues through an aesthetic lens; present new voices; and share often untold narratives. 

Glowski thinks exhibitions are special environments that have an impact both inside and outside of the gallery spaces. She hopes audiences of the work on display at Otterbein take these messages with them and to continue learning and growing as citizens of the world. 

“We are demonstrating that the Otterbein community is willing to commit to doing the hard work of listening, learning, being honest and moving toward shared truths. We are willing to engage in the difficult work of healing, so we can create the possibility of jettisoning the notion that there is a hierarchy of human value,” she said. 

All exhibitions are free and open to the public. Visit for more information on hours and location. 

About the Exhibitions:  

“Magda Parasidis: Ghosts in Sunlight,” Aug. 24-Dec. 4, Miller Gallery, 33 Collegeview Road, Westerville 
In the conceptual project “Ghosts in Sunlight,” Magda Parasidis reimagines the urban ghetto she has known as home as a space of poetic revelation. She transforms the housing projects from structures of oppression into the sites of ecstatic nighttime reveries of memory and resistance. Her work considers the connections between the personal, the political and the aesthetic, while subverting the systems of power that make some lives visible and others not. With a practice rooted in photography, Parasidis’ text-based images create a meditative and dreamlike visual space in which she explores urban poverty and the mechanisms of marginalization, while inviting the viewers to examine their emotional responses to race, class and difference in the service of a renewed critical consciousness. 

“On(c)es Forgotten,” Aug. 26-Dec. 4, Frank Museum of Art, 39 S Vine St., Westerville 
How are people made visible in our communities, our country, and our world? What gives people voice and makes them feel heard when they historically have been ignored, left behind, or oppressed? The “On(c)es Forgotten exhibition asks such questions through the expressive realism of Kyle and Kelly Phelps’ ceramic mixed media art. It acknowledges the 2017 watershed of social justice movements in the United States, when issues of marginalized and disempowered communities became visible in mainstream narratives and were amplified further by the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020. The exhibition brings into conversation the Phelps’ familiar images of blue collar, industrial, rural working-class men and women with those of urban African-Americas struggling against inequality and oppressive systems. This juxtaposition challenges pervasive storylines that place rural and urban communities in binary opposition. The large-scale, wall-mounted pieces are arresting and replete with nuance and intelligent details that draw the viewer into conversation about our nation’s complex history. 

“Valentino Dixon: Journey to Freedom,” Spring Semester 2021 
“Journey to Freedom” shows the drawings of Valentino Dixon, the father of Otterbein alumna Valentina (Tina) Dixon ’14. Valentino was wrongly accused of a murder and imprisoned for 27 years. An artist before he was incarcerated, Dixon turned to drawing prominent black leaders and freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama, to remain hopeful and inspired while enduring decades of injustice. The prison warden, an avid golfer, gave Dixon a photograph of a famous golf course hole to draw. It was the beginning of the journey toward his exoneration. The show includes his portraits, golf course scenes and dramatic, colorful drawings of animals.