McDevitt rejects student’s George Floyd painting from contest: ‘Biases’ or deadlines to blame?
Ava Corradi was stunned when her art teacher pulled her aside two weeks before an art exhibition at school and a competition to say that her artwork would not be attending the event.
Although her painting was late in filing, it featured George Floyd’s face with the words “Justice For Floyd” painted around his picture.
Floyd’s death in police custody sparked protests across the country last year, including in Harrisburg and other parts of central Pa.
Corradi said her art teacher said the artwork would not be on the show because it could cause “political unrest”. The student then said that her teacher commented “You submitted it a little later than the deadline” in a handwritten manner. The project was due on February 19, and she submitted it on February 20 or 21, she said.
The whole thing left Corradi unsettled and days after the show ended, she shared her view of what was happening and her disappointment that the school perceived her painting on social media as political. In her post on Instagram, she stated that she had the right to express herself and that her voice was torn from her when the painting was removed from the show.
After her post went off Monday night, her headmaster called her to his office on Tuesday morning.
He assured her that the decision to remove the painting from the exhibition was neither his nor the school’s president. She said she “believes him wholeheartedly” in part because he encouraged her to keep her post and continue to advocate civil rights.
Bishop McDevitt’s director Vincent Harper emailed PennLive on Wednesday that Corradi’s entry had been submitted a few days after the competition had closed and all entries had been submitted to the jury.
“A conversation took place between the student and the art teacher to inform the student that the submission was late,” wrote Harper. “During this conversation, the teacher expressed that this piece could be considered controversial.”
Immediately after learning the decision, Corradi said she hadn’t fully processed it.
“When I told my mom she was really angry,” Corradi said. “Which really helped me to see the severity.”
Although her mother wanted her to call the headmaster at the time, Corradi said she didn’t because she believed he was the reason for the move at the time.
“I haven’t seen how that would improve the situation,” said Corradi.
Harper said Wednesday that “no social injustice has been committed. It wasn’t a denial of freedom of expression or the image of George Floyd. “
Corradi said that posting her thoughts on social media was not about shaming the school, but rather reminding other kids to speak out for what they believe in.
“I’m a very outspoken person,” said Corradi. “I would tell anyone who listens to what I feel.”
She said the huge surge in the Black Lives Matter movement over the past year had motivated her. She said after seeing horrors like Floyd’s death in the world, she wanted to use her platform.
She sees Floyd as a symbol of change and is inspired by how communities have come about since his death.
When Corradi’s post first came up, she received replies from several alumni, all on her side.
Corradi said it was heartwarming to see how many people not only supported her, but also supported the Black Lives Matter movement and ended the police brutality. She knew some people would disagree with her, but she was happy with the answer so far.
There is still some conflict between Corradi’s memory of speaking with her art teacher and what the school said, but school officials told Corradi and PennLive that they know there is still much to be done.
“It would be irresponsible of our administration to believe that our school is immune to unconscious or real prejudice,” said Harper. “We understand that work is required to train our employees to identify justice issues, eliminate prejudice, and honor the diversity of the populations we serve. Bishop McDevitt values the opinion of all students, faculties, staff, and parents. “
Since Corradi’s story exploded on social media, she’s now in talks to sell the painting to the owners of Good Brotha Café in Harrisburg. Although they haven’t discussed a price, she is happy that her painting is getting a new home.
“What they stand for is so heartwarming,” said Corradi. She has a personal relationship with her art and is usually reluctant to part with it, but the exhibition in the bookstore and black-owned café felt “right”.
There is still a chance that the picture of the school will be displayed at a special show for parents of seniors. Harper has said the painting will be included for it.
“I don’t think anyone at McDevitt is specifically guilty and I don’t want to hate my school,” Corradi said, emphasizing that she loved her time there. “The main reason I did this was to raise awareness.”
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