For many Franklin & Marshall students preparing for final exams, the library was the place to be on Monday evening. But for Tigist Hailu ’11, the facade of the library—and that of several other buildings on campus—was where the most significant learning was on display.
Hailu presented “Association, Memory and Time: Six Decades of the African-American Experience at F&M” for dozens of members of the F&M community on Monday night. Beginning on Manning Alumni Green and continuing to other locations on campus, the presentation commemorated the 60th anniversary of the first African-American students to graduate from Franklin & Marshall. It was Hailu’s final project for ART 372: The Camera, taught by Assistant Professor of Art John Holmgren.
With the help of her friends and professor, Hailu used projectors to display images of African-American alumni on the facades of buildings that meant the most to them, including Shadek-Fackenthal Library, Keiper Hall, Old Main, Distler House, Steinman College Center and the Black Cultural Center. The images included quotes about why the alumni felt connected to each building.
Hailu began the project with the help of Tony Ross ’91, president of the African-American Alumni Council, who helped put Hailu in touch with local African-American alumni. The graduates represented each decade of the past 60 years, including Sydney N. Bridgett ’51, the Rev. Louis Butcher ’65, Donna Eileen Glover ’76, Monica Gantz DuBose ’85, Raymond C. DuBose ’84, Ross, and Nick Peterson ’02. The alumni visited campus to have their portraits taken in the digital photo laboratory in the Department of Art & Art History.
“Meeting each of the alumni and learning about their experiences at F&M was the best part of the project, especially meeting Sydney Bridgett,” Hailu says. “It was great to hear the positive experience the alumni had at F&M, never experiencing anything negative, even though there was racial tension in the county during the 1950s and 1960s.”
Hailu says she learned about the 60th anniversary of African-American students when fellow senior Victoria Ryland ’11 directed Performing Identities in March at the Other Room Theater. Performing Identities was the first production at the College written, directed and performed entirely by African-Americans. Hailu’s creative inspiration came from French artist JR, an “urban activist” who uses photography and projected imagery to engage community members and prompt them to question their surroundings.