Oglethorpe University has announced Shanequa Gay as its inaugural visual artist-in-residence for the 2022-23 academic year.
As part of her residency, the internationally-acclaimed Atlanta artist will present lectures and special events for the Oglethorpe community and host guest artists and curators on campus.
In addition, a studio space dedicated to the program — and future artists-in-residence — is currently under construction in the Turner Lynch Campus Center. True to the spirit of the small liberal arts college, this intimate space will foster opportunities for personal connections and hands-on learning experiences. Students, faculty and staff alike will be able to step over the threshold into a working artist’s studio to experience Gay’s creative process firsthand.
“Shanequa Gay is the ideal artist to serve in this inaugural role at Oglethorpe University, given her steadfast commitment to social justice and her distinctive talent as one of the most relevant artists of her generation,” said John Daniel Tilford, curator of collections at the OU Museum of Art, which is shepherding the residency. “Her presence and work are sure to inspire our students.”
Gay’s upcoming residency at Oglethorpe is an exciting culmination of the artist’s longstanding relationship with the university, which began in 2019 when the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art acquired one of Gay’s works, “La Pieta.”
A group of student leaders, with the support of Oglethorpe’s Student Government Association and Black Student Caucus, successfully led an initiative to acquire La Pieta to begin expanding the diversity of the artists represented in the museum’s permanent collection, and to better reflect the diversity of Oglethorpe’s student body. The artwork was a gift on behalf of the student body and was the first known effort of its kind.
Since then, the museum has acquired another work by Gay, “Hey, Slim,” which was recently on view in the Spring 2022 exhibition “Beloved Community: African American Artists in Atlanta Collections and Beyond.” The museum also plans to acquire at least one of the works Gay will create during her residency.
An advocate for social justice, Gay has hosted several guest lectures at the museum and has spoken to students about her social justice work, which often inspires her art. Recently, the artist and activist was interviewed virtually by student leader Taylor Roberts ’21 about the power of art in times of social discord.
“Artists are like the heartbeat of the community,” said Gay, “When we are in times of civil unrest, we look to the heartbeat.”
Named an “Artist to Watch” by Atlanta Magazine in 2021, Gay has deep roots in the university’s home city. She has exhibited all around Atlanta, including the Atlanta Biennial at the Atlanta Contemporary, the Hammonds House Museum and in “OFF THE WALL,” a city-wide Civil Rights and Social Justice Mural initiative led by the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee. Her work was also selected for “Le Monde Bossale” in Montreal, Canada, “Adorned” at the McColl Center for Arts and Innovation and “Holding Space for Nobility: A Memorial for Breonna Taylor,” at the Ackland Museum in Chapel Hill North Carolina.
Shanequa Gay received her AA in Graphic Design and Fashion Marketing from the Art Institute of Atlanta (1999), a BA in Painting from The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), summa cum laude (2015), and is currently an MFA candidate at Georgia State University. She is a Do Good Fellow recipient and an Emory University Arts and Social Justice Fellow, 2020. Ms. Gay’s work is also included in several major collections, including those of actor Samuel L. Jackson and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
She has exhibited internationally in Canada, Japan, South Africa and, most recently, Italy at the Venice Biennale — an international exhibition often called “the Olympics of the art world.”
Strengthening Oglethorpe’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is a high-level priority for the university as outlined in the institution’s 2022-27 strategic plan. Under President Nick Ladany, Oglethorpe has continued to develop a robust and supportive learning environment for the university’s diverse student body. Gay’s residency at the university is an engaging component of this larger push for inclusion.