Art pieces celebrate diversity, inclusion

Marshall University is celebrating inclusion with five new art installations on the Huntington campus. The pieces were chosen as winners of the Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Artist Competition hosted this year by the School of Art and Design and Marshall President Dr. Jerome A. Gilbert. They will be on display in the Memorial Student Center, Smith Hall, East Hall and Drinko Library.

Gilbert will be joining the artists and touring the installations from 1 – 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, as an opportunity to learn about the significance and inspiration for each piece. Media are invited to join the tour as well. It begins at 1 p.m. in the Smith Hall Atrium, then heads to East Hall and then Drinko Library and finishes in the Memorial Student Center.

The winners are:

  • Karen Fry, alumna. Her piece, In Toto, is located in the Smith Hall Atrium. The large wall sculpture is made of wood and an array of brightly colored batik swatches that will compose a colorful “M.”
  • Sean Gue, alumnus. His pieces, Lavinia NormanThomas Dexter Jakes Sr., William Withers Jr., Martin R. Delaney, Leon H. Sullivan, Christopher H. Payne, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. are located in East Hall.  All seven pieces are original, digital, abstract portraits of prominent African American West Virginians.
  • Peyton Dolin, student. Her Portrait of Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, 2021 is located on the second floor of Drinko Library. It features a bust of Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, who served as director of West Virginia’s Department of Mental Health in the 1960s and 70s, as the first African American woman to lead a state agency in West Virginia. Mitchell-Bateman also served as the founding chair of the psychiatry department at the Marshall University School of Medicine.  A translucent window treatment is included to add to the piece.
  • Shyanna Ashcraft , student. Her piece, Breaking Bread, is located on the third floor of Drinko Library. The installation art piece highlights the historical White Pantry sit-in that occurred in Huntington in 1963.
  • Peyton Dolin and Zahava Erikson, students. Their collaborative installation, I Went to Marshall University and All I Got Was a T-Shirt, 2021, is located in the Memorial Student Center. It features hundreds of folded paper/origami T-shirts with photographs of students, faculty, and staff here at Marshall highlighting campus diversity. Each one is delicately pinned to the wall.

“Since the beginning of my presidency at Marshall, expanding diversity and inclusion initiatives and providing a welcoming atmosphere for all has been a top priority for me,” President Gilbert said. “To see this particular project come to fruition is very heartening.”

The goal of the art competition was to provide an opportunity for current students and alumni to create works celebrating or exploring cultural identity, sociocultural topics, social justice issues or other themes that promote unity and inclusion. The competition adhered to the Marshall University vision to inspire learning and creativity that ignites the mind, nurtures the spirit and fulfills the promise of a better future.

Choosing these five pieces of art from the nearly 20 submissions received, “was an incredibly rewarding and informative experience,” said Frederick Bartolovic, interim director of the School of Art and Design. “We developed a diverse panel of invested reviewers to determine which five pieces would work best in the locations that had been chosen across campus. We are excited to see the final works installed and finished, and see each of these pieces as highlighting the diversity that is often overlooked, but ever present within our great state of West Virginia.”

“I’m impressed by the quality and variety of the artworks selected,” said Jamie Platt, director of galleries for the School of Art and Design.

Each of the artists will receive a $250 cash prize. For more information visit

Photo: Marshall’s Drinko Library is one of the sites displaying winners of of the Diversity, Equity, and Belonging Artist Competition hosted this year by the School of Art and Design and Marshall President Dr. Jerome A. Gilbert.