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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Race, Caste and Colorism Group launches new community arts space & exhibition


Northwestern Buffett’s Race, Caste and Colorism Global Working Group recently partnered with the SpaceShift Collective to launch Starlighta new community arts space and artist workshop open until October 29, 2022. Starlight is an immersive exhibition exploring the history and future of Black and South Asian solidarity on Chicago's Devon Avenue, one of the most diverse streets in America and a cultural hub for Chicago's large desi or South Asian community, including the Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, Rohingya and Afghan communities.

“It’s an artist workshop, evolving art installation and radical community library all in one. It provides a space for Chicago-based South Asian and Black artists, along with faculty and graduate students from Northwestern, to convene, influence, and inspire each other to create new art objects that wouldn’t otherwise exist, and develop perspectives, networks and communities that will sustain long beyond the six weeks of the installation itself,” said Race, Caste and Colorism group co-leader and Northwestern Associate Professor of South Asian Literature and Culture Laura Brueck.

Starlight is the next phase of SpaceShift Collective’s Ao Mil Baithen project, a community-based initiative that celebrates the arts and culture of South Asia and its diaspora. The space features a reading nook, listening station, art-making and story-sharing opportunities, and a variety of community events, including artist-led workshops, an open mic session, concerts and film screenings focused on the concepts of race, caste and colorism, and their effects on communities. 

“In a city with a deep history of racial bifurcation, the Starlight art installation is not only a reminder of other long-standing communities in Chicago but a luminous call for the kinds of collectivities and connections that promise to both reorient how we see the ‘international’ here as well as recreate those very communities,” said Race, Caste and Colorism group co-leader and Northwestern Associate Professor of English Ivy Wilson.

“This task is enormous, but asking the right kinds of questions always brings us closer to imagining the kind of world we want to live in,” added Soumya Shailendra, a PhD student in Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern and a research associate on the project.

Learn more about the Starlight arts space and view the full line-up of upcoming events here.