“Windows of Understanding: We See Through Hate” Multi-City Art Installation

January 16th, 2023

by Jacquelyn Oshman – Head of Circulation / Web Archivist, New Brunswick Free Public Library

Established in 1730, New Brunswick, NJ has long been an industrial hub drawing in migrant workers from around the world. The diverse workforce that settled in New Brunswick has had a lasting effect on the population and has resulted in several demographical changes over the years. In 1967, violence nearly erupted when 200 African American residents protested in the streets, vandalizing businesses and demanding to speak to the mayor about the inequalities they faced in housing, education, and the job market, as well as the discrimination they faced on a daily basis. Fast forward 50 years: the city, and nation, are still facing similar inequalities and social injustices. Black Lives Matter, the MeToo Movement, Anti-Asian and Anti-Semitic crime on the rise, poverty and mass immigration are all topics heard on a daily basis especially in New Brunswick and neighboring cities such as Highland Park and Metuchen.

In 2018, Cassandra Oliveras-Moreno, administrator of Communications & Collaboration of Mason Gross’ Visual Arts Department, Tracey O’Reggio Clarke, Interim Executive Director at New Brunswick Cultural Center/Arts New Brunswick and Jennifer Sevilla, counselor and social worker, co-created the “Windows of Understanding: We See Through Hate” art installation. They reached out to non-profit organizations and businesses across the city to find locations that would be willing to put pieces of art inspired by social injustices in their front windows for all residents and visitors to see. Oliveras-Moreno stated: “My vision for this project has been to transform our ‘main street’ spaces into literal windows of understanding — spaces in which the community can learn about the positive strides being made by local organizations that don’t make daily headlines. Our belief is that through visual language, artists can communicate methods of understanding in powerful ways that cut across cultural boundaries. The masterpiece at the core of the project is solidarity, not any single work of art.”

2 paintings with many people, houses, and city skylines jumbled together.

Krishna Schroth’s “Home is Where the Heart Is” representing Healthier Middlesex.

Each social justice organization that participates is paired with an artist, many of them from Mason Gross School of the Arts, said Amee Pollack, the administrative liaison for the undergraduate program in the Department of Art and Design. The artist is then given a specific site to create their own piece of art answering the question of how their designated organization “sees through hate.” The goal is to increase positivity and awareness of a wide range of challenging social injustices while also showcasing organizations available to help the community in a positive and entertaining way.

The month long project is now entering its 6th year with the 2023 opening ceremonies taking place on Tuesday, January 17th.

Painting with two hands grasping one another, one above water, the other below water.

Hiwatha Cuffee’s “Rise” representing NeighborCorps Re-Entry Services.

New Brunswick Free Public Library has been saving digital content about “Windows of Understanding” since the beginning of the project. We have been saving as much information about the organization as we can because it is a unique program that inspires the community and encourages residents to work together for the benefit of the city. We hope that if the project ever ends, or other towns are interested, we can provide the articles and media we have saved and others will be inspired to start a similar project in their neighborhood. We will continue to save the website and news stories that become available as long as the project lasts. For more information, see https://www.windowsofunderstanding.org/ or the library’s web archive collection at https://archive-it.org/collections/9956.

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