When artist and activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh thinks about social justice issues, she thinks about how she can make a difference and change the culture through her art. This September, she will spend several weeks meeting with Black and brown, queer, and women-identified students at the University of Michigan. She wants to understand the ways that they experience race and gender on campus and to explore how students are treated based on their identities. The engagements will culminate in a public art installation on some of U-M’s most iconic buildings, using Fazlalizadeh’s drawings of the students to present their experiences and stories back to the public. 

“My process of working and the process for creating this project begins with engagement from the student body,” Fazlalizadeh explained. “Through workshops and interviews, I will speak with students, holding candid and honest conversations about their lives and how they have experienced racism, sexism, and other forms of  oppression.”

“Fazlalizadeh’s work is very much about the students being heard and occupying institutional spaces,” added Amanda Krugliak, Curator at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery. “It isn't static. The project has built into it space for discourse, for dissent, for constructive critique, and future visions. It continues to challenge archaic ideas as to who we should honor in public spaces with monuments or buildings, and to publicly present the thoughts and voices of people whose voices have historically been overlooked.”

Four oversized murals will be installed on campus, on the Modern Languages Building, Shapiro Undergraduate Library, and Trotter Multicultural Center. There will also be several cutouts of lifesize drawings posted in the ground on central campus. “Each cutout and each installation on each building has the potential to be resonant in a different way and change the very landscape on campus and the way we see things,” said Krugliak.

In addition to the public mural component, Fazlalizadeh will have an exhibition at the Institute for the Humanities Gallery. In Pressed Against My Own Glass, a multimedia installation on Black womanhood within the home space, Fazlalizadeh explores her childhood and adulthood within the domestic space and how it connects to the experiences of other Black women and those who had a girlhood. Using paintings, drawings, video, and reappropriated home objects, she examines her experiences of joy, rest, sadness, and fellowship in the home. While doing so, she makes connections to her Black women peers, even those like Breonna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson who show how racist violence is a threat to Black women even in their homes.

Dates and Locations

  • Pressed Against My Own Glass, exhibition, September 15-October 21, 2022. Location: Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer.
  • Opening Reception with Tatyana Fazlalizadeh in conversation with Curator Amanda Krugliak, September 15, 6:30-8pm, Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer.
  • To Be Heard, public mural project, September 28-October 16, 2022. Locations: Trotter Multicultural Center, Modern Languages Building, Shapiro Library.
  • Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series: “To Be Heard: Public Art Interventions” by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, September 28, 5:30-7pm, Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington. The Institute for the Humanities Gallery will be open for viewing after the lecture.

Campus Engagement with Students

  • Focused engagement with students in the course “Gender and Immigration: Identity, Race, and Place,” taught by Amal Hassan Fadlalla, Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, and Anthropology
  • The student-led U-M Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention Task Force
  • Students in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies
  • Student affiliates of the Trotter Multicultural Center.

This project is made possible by a grant from the Mellon Foundation as part of the Institute for the Humanities' multi-year High Stakes Art initiative.