Art Matters by Rahsaan Harris, Class of 1995

My nine-year-old daughter and I were looking for something to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We were ten minutes away from Princeton University’s campus, and we decided to head over to explore. As we arrived, I remembered that, although the Princeton University Art Museum is under construction, the Museum had an exhibition and activities at Art on Hulfish. As my daughter and I entered Art on Hulfish, we were immediately greeted by a creative station filled with an array of art supplies. The invitation was clear—contribute your voice to a dynamic piece of art that will send a message to the world. My daughter’s eyes lit up with excitement as she saw the markers, crayons, glitter, paper scraps, yarn—all waiting for her imagination to take flight.

My daughter possesses an innate curiosity for creating her own pieces. She loves experimenting with colors of paint and textures of materials because it allows her to express herself in ways words cannot fully capture. It is through this process that she often surprises herself with what she can make—artwork that reflects her innermost thoughts and feelings.

On this particular day, my daughter crafted a multi-textured piece using hearts cut out from paisley wallpaper and corrugated paper shaped into mountains. She connected these elements using bright yarn, which symbolized the spirits of our departed loved ones who continue to guide us. She said they were reminding us to show kindness and love.

This experience was not just about making art; it was about connecting with others who had come before us on this creative journey. As my daughter proudly hung her artwork alongside the pieces made by other children, we were treated to the exhibition on view: You Belong Here: Place, People, and Purpose in Latinx Photography. The photographs spanned generations, capturing scenes from times long gone and contemporary moments that reflected our diverse society. What struck me most about this exhibition was its inclusivity. The images portrayed Latinx people of every skin tone and body type, a true representation of the richly diverse community.

My daughter’s comment about one photograph—“That one looks like Mama”—reminded me how important it is for individuals to see themselves reflected in art. I applaud the Princeton University Art Museum’s commitment to creating a positive community through art. By showcasing a variety of voices and perspectives, the Museum not only inspires creativity but also fosters understanding among individuals from different cultures and backgrounds.

Art has a unique ability to bridge gaps between people who may otherwise feel disconnected or marginalized. It allows us to step into someone else’s shoes for a moment, gaining empathy and appreciation for their experiences. Through art, we can find common ground that transcends language or societal barriers. The programming at the Princeton University Art Museum serves as a catalyst for these connections within our community. By providing accessible opportunities for everyone to engage with art—whether through exhibitions or hands-on activities like the one my daughter participated in—the Museum creates an environment where all can feel welcome.

Art matters because it has the power to bring people together in ways that words alone cannot achieve. I believe the Museum strives to produce programming that fosters inclusivity, representation, and connection.

Art has always been a powerful tool for self-expression and building community. It has the ability to transcend language barriers, cultural differences, and societal boundaries. Art speaks to our souls, evoking emotions and sparking conversations that can bring people together in a positive and meaningful way. The Museum understands the importance of art in creating a sense of belonging and community. And for that, I am grateful.

Rahsaan Harris
Class of 1995

Special thanks to Stephen Kim for the invitation and inspiration to visit Art on Hulfish.

You Belong Here: Place, People, and Purpose in Latinx Photography was on view at Art on Hulfish from February to May 2023 and featured works by the artists Genesis Báez, William Camargo, Sofía Córdova, Perla de Leon, Tarrah Krajnak, Hiram Maristany, Joiri Minaya, Steven Molina Contreras, Star Montana, Bibs Moreno, Eddie Quiñones, Reynaldo Rivera, Guadalupe Rosales, Gabriela Ruiz, and John M. Valadez. Organized by Aperture.