Annual ‘coffeehouse’ showcases POC artists and writers

Coffeehouse attendees gather around the hot beverage station for coffee, tea and a lively discussion. In this way, the gallery served as a locus of both art and community. Courtesy of Sophia Blush

The third annual Multiracial Biracial Student Association (MBSA) Coffeehouse was held in the Villard Room on Tuesday, Nov. 19, showcasing creations from PoC artists. MBSA, an offshoot of the Black Student Union (BSU), was created to serve the community of multiracial students at Vassar.

Art posted on walls and large tables in the center of the room facilitated relaxed conversations and an overall fluid atmosphere. Snacks, coffee and tea were of course available, true to the event’s name. As MBSA prepared to host the show, the Villard Room became, in the apt words of MBSA Secretary Adesina Brown ’22, “vibey.”

“Giving people the option to just come and go, take some snacks, leave if they want and have a sort of informal space is important,” Brown said. “[We are] undoing ideas that things have to be structured in order to be valid. This is just a space where you can free flow, come and see things and not worry about judgment.”

MBSA President Elliot Porcher ’22 said that the event was structured like a traditional art gallery, but with the goal of reclaiming those spaces for people of color. He elaborated, “Artists of color aren’t usually given
a platform to have their voices heard in the same way that white voices are, and so this is a way to showcase a lot of visual art.”

Above is one example of artwork showcased during the MBSA Coffeehouse. Students were able to have their art exhibited regardless of formal training.
Courtesy of Sophia Blush

MBSA Vice President Nika McKechnie ’21 displayed her artwork at the event, including a pair of jeans she had painted. She expressed that MBSA is unique in its ability to be a place for all people of color. “A lot of fields are dominated by white people, including the arts,” she said. “To make spaces for people of color, however they define themselves, is really important. And to give them a platform that they don’t traditionally or predominantly have.”

The event is another act by students to reclaim community spaces around campus and to make sure that platforms for art are accessible, even if Studio Art classes aren’t. More importantly, MBSA is carving out these spaces for people of color

Alexander Garza ’23, who had photography displayed at the event, said the space provided a new way for him to engage with the arts at Vassar outside Studio classes, specifically alongside other people of color.

“I think it’s important to see what underrepresented people can do, especially with different mediums of art,” Garza shared. “All the work I displayed are portraits, and in this chill atmosphere we can kind of contemplate each photo and analyze it. Just look at it. They’re very peaceful looking, not attacking.”

McKechnie said that MBSA sought to broaden the definition of art so that more students would have a platform to display their creativity. “A lot of what we try to do is encourage people to do art and define art in a broader way so that we are talking about creative outlets that are not necessarily traditionally considered fine art,” she reflected. “I don’t consider myself a true artist in any way, but I do like creative outlets.

Brown said that this broadened definition held particular importance for marginalized people, as it encourages them to see their art as worthy of display, regardless of whether they’ve had formal training.

“To give people the space to just showcase their art even if it’s not in those exact same terms, you’re giving people the option to break out of those molds and not have the same layers of routine capitalism just piling onto you, saying you have to know these things and have to do certain things in order to be valid.”

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