Black Arts Network shares resources, fosters community among artists of color

Faculty advisor says organization is in need of greater financial support to carry out its mission.

After becoming inactive before the Covid-19 pandemic and slowly making its return last year, the Black Arts Network is back in full swing and ready to share the importance of Black art and artists with fellow students on campus.   

According to Justin Lee-Price, B.A.N. vice president, the purpose of B.A.N. is “to make it as accessible as possible for students to get the resources they need to pursue their love for the arts.”   

The arts can be a tricky industry for a person of color to navigate all on their own. B.A.N. allows students to create a community within a community.   

“For me it’s about safety to vent, to cry, to be upset and foster meaningful connections,” B.A.N. Marketing Director Janya Robinson said.   

B.A.N. is meant to share an in-depth look at what the Black experience is like in the world of the arts.   

“Amplifying Black artists to a new level is really important because when you ask a Black artist about their journey, it is a story of the most trying times in their life just to do what they love,” Lee-Price said.  

While there is heavy support for the organization from students, Ericka Walker-Smith, B.A.N. staff advisor, said that more monetary support is needed from the University to put the organization in “a better financial standpoint.”    

A strong financial foundation is what can make or break a college organization. B.A.N. has been open and honest about its financial struggles.   

“I think it has been interesting to see how we’ve been treated. And you must ask: Is it because we are a minority group on a majority white campus?” Robinson said.   

With greater financial support, this organization can continue to “help students feel like they belong somewhere,” Kechante Baker, B.A.N. president, said.   

In artistic programs at Baldwin Wallace, such as the music theatre program and the Department of Theatre & Dance, Black students and students of color can be few and far between. Because of this, students like Robinson, Baker and Lee-Price must depend on each other much more.  

“I do love the musical theatre program and my time in the B.F.A. [acting] program, but it is still nice for me to be able to connect with other artists and other people of color through a space like Black Arts Network,” Baker said.  

The hope for B.A.N. in the future is for “students in the program to branch out to other universities and the city of Cleveland, creating a larger network,” Robinson said.  

While the B.A.N. mission is to build relationships and connections specifically with performing artists of color and educate artists on the Black perspective, there are no prerequisites for joining.  

“B.A.N. is open and welcomes all artists who are interested in being involved,” Baker said.