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New piece in ART& space provokes discussion about police shootings

The ART& space at the Ackland Art Museum is a place for visitors to do homework, drink coffee, meet with friends and relax. Until Jan. 8, it's also a place challenging visitors to think about police shootings.

ART& is currently displaying a piece by Stacy Lynn Waddell, a local artist and assistant professor in the art department at Elon University. 

Waddell’s piece consists of black mirrored vinyl with the words “Please Don’t Shoot Me” spelled out in black lettering. The piece was put up before Thanksgiving break. 

“It has an enormous impact because of its scale and color," Allison Portnow Lathrop, public programs manager at the Ackland, said. "You don’t see a lot of completely black walls in art museums and using that high impact to convey a political message is very smart.” 

Waddell said she wanted to raise awareness with her piece. She said the majority of the people who view the piece have probably never been confronted with profiling or violence.

“They’ve never been faced with the targeted hostility that many of the folks we see on the news are targeted with,” Waddell said.

Waddell said she felt like it was the right time and right topic given the current political climate of America, regardless of personal leanings. She said there have been many police shootings that Americans have witnessed, beginning with the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. 

She said she wanted to create a camouflage effect with her piece, which is why she chose to have the background and the letters the same color, and to have reflective pieces on the vinyl.

“You have to keep moving your body relative to the piece to take it all in and understand,” Waddell said.

Lathrop said the ART& space was intended to be a contemporary experimental community. The space began displaying art in August and will continue until Jan. 8. Waddell’s piece is the third and final piece in the series. 

“Having artwork made literally weeks and months ago in the Ackland is something that’s super valuable to our visitors,” Lathrop said.

Lauren Turner, assistant curator for the collection, said she reached out to three local artists and gave them the freedom to create whatever they wanted. Turner said she looked for artists who had created large-scale work before and could do it again. 

“Each of the artists has taken a very different approach on how they want to utilize the space, and it’s been really great to see a text piece in there as well,” Turner said.

Waddell is a graduate of UNC’s Master of Fine Arts program and said she hasn’t done any work for the Ackland since her showcase in 2007. 

“It was really nice to be able to come back to the museum and give back,” she said.

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