Members of the campus community are invited to meet and welcome the college’s inaugural Artist in Residence Ellen Blalock in an informal event from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, in the Tyler Hall lobby.

All are welcome to stop into the meet and greet to say hello, hear about the project she is working on and grab a bite to eat. 

A narrative artist and documentarian, Blalock works in photography, video, drawing, fiber and installation. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States in museums, galleries and non-traditional places to bring her art to the people. She has a master of fine arts from Syracuse University and a bachelor of fine arts from Temple University.

She believes her job is to be a conduit to listen and tell stories of the ignored and underrepresented. She uses art to raise awareness of human conditions, social injustices, cultural diversities and religious and spiritual beliefs. Several topics Blalock has addressed in her art are: the Deaf community, GLBTQ families, African American teen fathers, and trauma and mental health in the Black community.

Sponsored by Artswego, Blalock’s key project while in residence will be “. . .While Black,”  an artistic installation using photographs, birdcages, quilts and words that uses the bird as a metaphor to confirm, remember and honor stories and truths of the African diaspora with focus on the African American experience. This also ties into the college's current Grand Challenge: Race, Racism and Social Justice.

“This project is designed in stages to build the imagery of representation, the bird as metaphor, to embody past, present and future to portray Black bodies,” Blalock wrote in her artist’s statement. “Student and community participation will be required for the construction of a community quilt, and personal stories will be incorporated into dialogue for each birdcage through individual experiences. The ultimate goal of this project is to encourage empathy, openness and build a safe place for students and community to talk about racism and trauma.”

Her role with Oswego includes teaching a First-Year Signature Course, “Black Art Matters: Excellence, Activism and Self-Identity,” which introduces and surveys the art of African Americans from 1800 to the present.

Oswego’s Artist in Residence program is designed to have a central focus on artistic work that engages with issues of diversity, intersectionality, inclusion and belonging, including but not limited to the experiences and lived realities of marginalized or minoritized communities or individuals.

Blalock most recently traveled to Dagahaley, the world’s largest refugee camp in the desert of Kenya, to document a Somali son’s reunion with his mother for film and photo exhibition. Recently her work was exhibited in the “Who, What, When, Where” exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, and “Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist” exhibition at the Textile Center in Minneapolis.

On the college level, Blalock has taught at Syracuse University, Onondaga Community College, Georgia College and State University and Georgia Southern University.

For more than two decades, Blalock worked for the Syracuse Post-Standard/Syracuse Media Group, including nearly a decade as an award-winning multimedia journalist. She earned a first-place video New York State Associated Press Association Awards for “1987 Syracuse Football: Stories from an Undefeated Season,” for which she served as videographer, co-producer and researcher.