The Westmoreland Art Museum, located in downtown Greensburg, is about a five minute drive from campus. The pieces in the museum exhibit inclusiveness, collaboration, and an inspiring atmosphere. Their mission is to, “ …offer a place to share compelling and meaningful cultural experiences that open the door to new ideas, perspectives and possibilities.”
One of the featured exhibitions is brought to Greensburg by a black artist by the name of Gavin Benjamin. Benjamin was born in Guyana, South America and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He is a Pittsburgh-based photographer who reimagines the genre and traditions of portraiture. The name of his exhibit is, “Let it All Out.”
Benjamin’s initial intentions were to connect with these people and more like them that live here in Greensburg, and listen to their stories and who they really are. A lot of his work features new immigrants, first-generation Americans, and people of color, giving them a chance to be seen and recognized in a county where they are not the majority.
One of Benjamin’s tasks was to create artwork for this museum that would speak to a broader audience. In one of the rooms holding Benjamin’s work, there is a television playing a video of him talking about how this all came to be and what he drew inspiration from.
In the video, he stated that he explored the museum and took inspiration from some of the pieces already hanging to create some of his pictures. Some of the pieces he was inspired from were “Death of Elaine,” “Easter Sunday,” and “Three Girls Drinking Coca Cola.”
With “Death of Elaine,” he wanted to touch on how women survived the pandemic. For “Easter Sunday”, he wanted to look at it from the perspective of how women kept their traditions and rituals alive for Easter, even during the times of the pandemic. “Three Girls Drinking Coca Cola,” he saw a “beautiful Indian family” and thought, “What is more American than immigrants, and their culture?”
He said that he really wanted to make this piece something that can highlight these people and spark conversations that aren’t already being had.
There are interesting elements to the photos. They show different kinds of black people, some with their own sense of fashion, small black children, and abstract pieces that are creative and highlight Benjamin’s outside the box thinking.
His pieces are nontraditional, but they have a uniqueness to them that can draw in observers.
For more information about the museum, visit their website here.