Dayton commissioner apologizes to STEM students

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Students at a local STEM school were asked to take down their artwork after two days of being on display at the Dayton Convention Center.

Dayton Regional STEM School ninth graders were studying the experiences of African Americans throughout U.S. history, including recent events regarding police relations with the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

Students created silhouettes to depict modern day issues involving black communities, drawing comparisons to historical events.

“The students chose images from both time periods and created silhouettes merging the two images. Each student was then charged with creating an artists’ statement in which they explain the two events and the thread that connects them,” said Arch Grieve via e-mail, Dayton Regional STEM School community outreach director.

The artwork went on display in February at the Dayton Convention Center. After two days the city took them down.

2 NEWS reached out to the City of Dayton for comment. We received the following statement:

“Due to the political nature of the STEM school art display’s content, complaints from our tenants, and guests who visit the Dayton Convention Center, we made the decision to remove the artwork. The City of Dayton has reached out to the STEM school and explained our criteria for displaying art at the Dayton Convention Center. We have offered them another opportunity to display art in our building in the future.”

During Wednesday’s city commission meeting, Commissioner Joey Williams said, “I want to make it perfectly clear that I and I’m sure other members of this commission feel similarly. We too, are very disappointed in what those young people had to endure. As I was briefed about what happened and learned about what happened, I certainly understand the disappointment and those feelings out there. Those young people went through a whole lot of work, they were invited to put their artwork into the convention center. I’m sure they were extremely disappointed. So, to those young people if you are listening, please hear from me and others we do apologize. That was unfair and we should have been more thoughtful in the front-end of that.”

Williams went on to say he’s happy students participated in this week’s poetry slam, expressing their views creatively at the Victoria Theatre.

School officials say students were disappointed that the artwork would not be displayed, but grateful for the city’s response, which included visits from convention center representatives and the city’s Human Relations Council (HRC).

“The students received more exposure than if this situation did not happen, they had an opportunity to use their voice and have a dialogue about what is happening in our society that no matter how much you chose to ignore it things are still happening. It was a great learning experience for them and I hope they continue to use their voices to bring to light what’s happening in our country and world,” said Katy Crosby, HRC executive director.

The HRC had students share their feelings and opinions about the decision to remove the artwork and then participated in a dialogue about community and police relations. Crosby says they also discussed opportunities to display their artwork in the future.

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