Kristina Halcromb (BFA 15 Illustration): At my current workplace as an art instructor, we use pictures of people and characters — some are white, some are black — usually kids choose the white character. Recently a student told me she didn't like the color of her skin, which was a darker complexion than the one in the reference drawing. This came out of nowhere. I gave her a little pep talk and we made a character look exactly like her, her skin, her hair. She absolutely loved it.
We also use pictures of animals, so changing the way kids look at the pictures is what I strive for. Some see black and white, and then you say, "Let's look at this gray tone. What kind of colors do you see in there?" Even though that's not specific to race, it's opening their eyes to see more color.
KH: I didn't like my skin when I was little; I was always choosing pale-colored baby dolls. To show kids they should be proud of their skin color makes me so happy. I know I'm making a difference in their lives.
KH: I learned about ArtCenter through my community college. There were students talking about it and talking about going to ArtCenter, but it just never clicked until I had a Black art teacher that started teaching there and showed me the way.
KH: I didn't see myself going in any other direction. It's been in my blood since I was little.
KH: In San Bernardino, there were no art schools or art classes that I was able to take when I was really young. My mom used to work with seniors and she found out that they were teaching art classes. She figured out a way to get me in a painting class there. So here's this six or seven-year-old little girl in this room with much older people doing oil painting. Then being able to go to ArtCenter and find that there's a bigger world for me, even if there aren't a lot of people who look like me. I felt like I could be that person somebody else looks up to in the art world.
KH: In the illustration department, I want to say there were about five at the time? There'd be a whole class of people, but I'd be the only Black person in it.
It's going to make me cry thinking about it. This teacher would go to every student and give them a little help at the beginning of class. He would skip me every single time.Kristina Halcromb (BFA 15 Illustration)Art Teacher/Freelance Artist
ArtCenter's Commitment to Black Lives
KH: It's going to make me cry thinking about it. This teacher would go to every student and give them a little help at the beginning of class; this was his way of teaching. He would skip me every single time. So I was in my own world telling myself to keep going. Because I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me from what I wanted to do.
KH: David Luce helped me grow as an artist, putting color into my pieces — not just skin color, but all colors. I love color. I was able to talk to him about all kinds of different situations. I still keep in contact with him.
KH: Everybody here knows how to be an ArtCenter student — it's that drive to be constantly creating, constantly working. That's just us. And I love that. I don't think it happens outside of ArtCenter.
KH: So there's representation of us, everywhere. There's representation of our skin color, our culture, things that we do, how we talk, how we look. It will help generations to come, and make this whole country just a little better.
*This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Photo credit: Everard Williams