Visiting artist explores silence and noise

St. Kate's art professor Carol Chase (left) and visiting artist Mihret Kebede Alwabie. Photo by Pauline Oo.

St. Kate's art professor Carol Chase (left) and visiting artist Mihret Kebede Alwabie. Photo by Pauline Oo.

On Friday, 15 faculty and staff gathered in the sunlight-filled Center for Mission at St. Catherine University to hear Ethiopian artist Mihret Kebede Alwabie speak about incorporating silence into teaching and mentoring. The complete absence of sound, she noted, encourages personal thought and, often, deeper reflection. It can also speak volumes, whether we intend it to or not.

“When people are silent, you can still see action and movement,” said Mihret, the Department of Art and Art History’s 2017–18 Amy Marie Sears Memorial Visiting Artist. “You can read a lot from it.” (The artist is referred in this article by her first name as per Ethiopian convention.)

The takeaway that afternoon: It’s OK to be quiet. In fact, let’s all practice that more.

Mihret’s presentation is part of her two-week residency, entitled “Between Silence and Noise.” Her visit includes a public lecture and performance (see below), a brown-bag session for the St. Kate's community, and student discussions in the following classes: art history, women's studies, sociology, and critical studies of race and ethnicity.

Both events are free and will take place in the Recital Hall (Music Building).

Lecture: “Art, Activism and My Community”
September 25, 3–5 p.m.

Performance: “A Reciprocal of John Cage’s 4’33”
September 27, 7 p.m.

The Departments of Women's Studies and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity will host the Brown Bag Discussion: "Artistic Practice in Knowledge Production for Social Change" on September 29, noon–1:30 p.m. in the Center for Women. This event is open to faculty, staff and students.

The annual Amy Marie Sears Visiting Artist Series was established in memory of Amy Marie Sears, a 1995 alumna and studio art major who passed away in 1997.

“We try to choose artists that work in ways that are different from what we normally teach in the department,” said Carol Chase, chair of the art and art history department. “Mihret’s work is a perfect fit for this profile. Her creative and critical engagement with the idea of silence — as resistance, resilience, and expression — in many contexts will enrich learning for many at St. Kate’s Her strong feminist presence and international work will strengthen our missions.”

Mihret was born in Dessie, Ethiopia, and graduated from Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design. In 2013, the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism named her best practicing female artist. Her work defies disciplinary boundaries, noted Chase. Mihret is also a poet and conceptual artist who frequently collaborates with other artists in Africa and Europe.

Her visit to St. Kate’s is co-sponsored by the Center for Women, Center for Mission, Internationalization Council, Office of Multicultural and International Program and Services, and the Department of Sociology.

By Pauline Oo