Walker Art Center: “2016: The Year According to De Nichols”
In 2014, De Andrea Nichols was part of the team that created Mirror Casket, an artwork that was ceremonially carried from the site of Michael Brown’s killing to the Ferguson police department, its mirrors challenging those who saw it “to look within and see their reflections as both whole and shattered, as both solution and problem, as both victim and aggressor.” This year—as the Mirror Casket was brought into the collection of the Smithsonian’s new museum of African American culture—Nichols again was involved in mirroring. As she outlines below, she and two other black staffers wrote a letter, speaking back to management at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis about a controversial exhibition by Kelley Walker that many in St. Louis believed caused pain in the African American community. Among the show’s works were photos of black women smeared with toothpaste and images from the Civil Rights movement silkscreened using chocolate. Given St. Louis’s role as a “central location for the contemporary civil rights movement in the aftermath of the unrest in Ferguson,” the trio wrote to their bosses, “the work triggers a retraumatization of racial and regional pain.”
A multidisciplinary designer and civic leader, Nichols is a cofounder and director of Civic Creatives, a social design organization that curates interactive experiences that help community members and civic organizations connect and resolve critical social challenges. Here, we welcome her reflections on a pivotal year, for her and the world, as part of series 2016: The Year According to .