Social Media Museums

In the wake of the Art Hoe (alternatively spelled Heaux or Ho) and Black Lives Matter movements, we see people like the unapologetically assertive adolescent Amandla Stenberg abloom in their efforts to quell racism by placing a special focus upon the truths behind cultural appropriation, as well as by fostering art in the POC community. Amandla rose to prominence as Rue in the first installment of The Hunger Games trilogy (but has long since veered away from the silver screen with more of a concentration on art and social justice), which has given her a leg up in garnering such an impactful following. But there are plenty of other teens who are the living, breathing, and creating proof that anybody can make a difference.  

Amandla, along with various other creators/curators, has been a central figure in the success of the Instagram account @arthoecollective, which has been described as a “space for all creatives of color”. The posts feature the artwork of these creatives, bringing a plethora of mediums that have people of color as their subjects to social media. In actuality what Amandla and countless others have done by creating this space is essentially fashioning an online museum for POC. When museums may be inaccessible to people (and when museums rarely display art involving POC), this account provides an alternative outlet for those who want to appreciate art in a significantly more inclusive environment.

Older generations often dismiss social media as the killer of culture, but here we see that social media can be just as enriching as a museum environment. Scratch that. More enriching, in the case of The Art Hoe Collective. Personally, I love the concept of an Instagram page being a museum, and I love to find those accounts that bring the atmosphere of somewhere like the MFA or the ICA to my phone. I mean, just from browsing the account, I see that those with admin power are deemed "curators". You really can’t get any more museum-eqsue than that. It’s astounding how accessible it enables art to be.

There are hundreds of masterpieces on the account, but below is a selection of three pieces of which I've never seen anything similar in a museum, or anywhere else for that matter.

As humans we've always associated the moon with an otherworldly and celestial being, a common theme in the mythologies of various cultures. Here, the moon's crescent shape and encompassing glow serves the purpose of rendering the illustrated figure an ethereal creature. Violet flesh tones and hair bound in conical shapes (that remind me significantly of Princess Leia's iconic hairstyle) bring an alien and galactic vibe to the piece. It was created by Asher (@paracosm) and he hoped to design "a WOC in the form of a goddess figure representing holiness and serenity". It does exactly this while challenging the eurocentricity of the fact that most people are well-versed only in the mythologies of Ancient Greece and Rome and creating an alternative that celebrates the beauty of women of color.

Everything about this photo exudes an overwhelming feeling of luxury. A white fur jacket, black lipstick; it all just feels so expensive. By Cassandra J. Rodriguez (@stealthmade), a Boston dwelling eighteen-year-old artist, the piece is titled “Painting the Town”, and was shot in and around the classy shops of Newbury Street (you know what I mean: Chanel, Burberry, etc.). She recounts that many people working at these shops were less than accommodating for this photoshoot, on account of their appearances. Cassandra associates the Back Bay area with wealth, a connection I can definitely agree with. The inspiration for the title comes from the fact that as people of color, Cassandra believes that she and her models “paint the town”. She strives to show that black is beautiful while also “challenging the leaks in society”.

Graphic designer and illustrator Niti Marcelle (@nitimarcelle) has an affinity for individualism, and mirrors this in her artwork. She also has a penchant for portraits, seeing as how she views the human body as a piece of art and is constantly astounded by the uniqueness in people's faces. The artist mentions that what's important to her is, "Supporting black businesses/entrepreneurs/artists from [her] town...and [she supports] them by helping them with their visual identity." This is entirely evident in the above piece. The cotton candy pink hair accentuates one's individualism and the power that one has to separate themselves from others. Furthermore, the focus of the portrait being a woman of color provides representation for those who are underrepresented. On a final note, I find that through the use of a double outline, a sort of hazy, double-vision effect is procured, which further emphasizes the theme of individuality: it's a snapshot in time. We're always changing, always evolving, but this almost fuzzy image captures a moment of complete and total independence, because nobody else will ever exist in this same state, not even the same person.

Of course, I could visit the MFA if I happened to be craving a physical museum environment. But it would lack something that all of the artists on this account bring to the table, and that’s an intense focus upon people of color. Here and there we see things that highlight POC in the arts at museums, but we never see anything that’s completely and utterly dedicated to POC. When the art world is so very whitewashed, our society is in dire need of these Instagram accounts, because they have the power to change art as we know it.

If you’re looking for a museum but you’ve already scoured the exhibits of those located in the Greater Boston area, @arthoecollective is undoubtedly where you should turn next. Who says that an Instagram account can’t give you the same things that you might seek at a museum? And as I wrap up this article, I seek to challenge you. Turn your account into a museum of carefully curated selections that speak to you! If Amandla and countless others like Asher, Cassandra, and Niti can change the art world through social media, then you can too.

text: leo gearin
visuals: tumblr, @stealthmade, @paracosm, @nitimarcelle
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