Black excellence exhibit inspires BI locals

When Akuyea Vargas moved to Bainbridge Island 33 years ago, it was as one of the only Black families here at the time.

So the Black and Boujee exhibition during Black History Month at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art had special meaning for her. She sat on a bench in the hallway into the exhibit getting hugs and photos from everyone. For her, the exhibit was a dream come true.

“Art brings us together, and it unifies us in a way that we just break down all those barriers, and we come in and celebrate,” she said.

The exhibit was a look at artistic representations of Black Luxury in America. Through paintings, mixed media, clothing, sculpture and performance, Black and Boujee’s subjects are Black excellence and aspiration.

Sade’Monique McInnis, BIMA’s senior manager of Cultural and Community Programs, said most Black History Month offerings look back at history and trauma. But with this exhibit, she hoped visitors understood the pride of the Black community, “that they do see that excellence. That they do see what our community brings. I want visitors to see us in a positive way.”

Sade, who grew up in Bremerton and is one of the only Black employees at BIMA, reached out to Fancy Vargas, who curated the event and brought together some young artists, many of whom were showing their work for the first time at the exhibit. Originally she planned more of a retrospective timeline, “I started talking to artists, and I thought, that’s stupid, this is such a luxurious space, and I knew I wanted to take this concept and retell it through art.”

The concept behind Black & Boujee is a deeper meaning of the concept of luxury. “Boujee” is a generally pejorative term for being of upper class, but the exhibit had less to do with luxury items and more to do with luxuriating” that hasn’t always been represented in the Puget Sound area.

“They’re used to this (luxury), but they aren’t used to the community,” said Fancy Vargas, a transplant of 13 years, who grew up in Maryland, “In Maryland Black excellence is everywhere. There is a whole group of Black doctors and lawyers who live in mansions. People here are not exposed to Black excellence, but I am, and I wanted to show that.”

Black excellence was the theme of the BIMA exhibit.

Black excellence was the theme of the BIMA exhibit.