Reactions to Racism: An Artist’s Perspective

A Haitian-American artist’s mixed-media art unveils perspectives on racism from the point of view of black millennials.

Mixed media art - Chanel Thervil -
Chanel Thervil, “Pity Party: Selfies for the Trump Era,” mixed media. Urbano Project (Jamaica Plain, MA) presents Chanel Thervil’s exhibition “Enigma: Reactions to Racism,” February 5 through May 3, 2019.

From Urbano Project:

At the core of resilience is endurance, the ability to push forward despite pain. Since the beginning of America’s history, people of color have been expected to endure. Between the whispers of the civil rights movement and the glaring social justice issues revisited in the post-Obama era, there has been a societal obsession with having conversations about racism.

Mixed media art - Chanel Thervil -
Chanel Thervil, “Liminal,” 2018, mixed media

While the actions that arise from these conversations have been hard to track and measure, they persist. One of the nuances of these conversations is the recurring focus on white intentions, pain, and confusion over their impact on people of color holding the same space. Racism can be equally awkward, perplexing, and ironic for all parties involved.
Unveiling these experiences from the perspective of black millennials in Boston, an exhibition titled “Enigma” will feature mixed-media installations of portraits, abstract works, and interviews. Chanel Thervil’s exhibition is part of Urbano’s curatorial series exploring the theme of Resilience and Sustainability.

Mixed media art - Chanel Thervil -
Chanel Thervil, “Rocky,” 2018, mixed media

Caption: While her exhibition is on view, Thervil will lead a Youth Artist Project called “The Promise of Tomorrow,” asking students to wrestle with the question: If art is the conscience of society, then what do artists need to survive? During this course, artists will channel the humanity in their experiences to support their ability to create 2D and 3D works of art. Key topics explored include history, self-care, and innovation. Thervil’s final project will be a mixed-media installation that embodies the Youth Artists’ vision of what they need to make the future better for the communities they are a part of now and hope to build tomorrow.

Mixed media art - Chanel Thervil -
Chanel at work in the studio, 2019

Thervil asks us to wrestle with the question: If art is the conscience of society, then what do artists need to survive?

Survival requires resilience, but there is no clear roadmap for artists to follow. Between the pressures of caring for your family, trying to pass your classes, and wondering who’s lurking on your Instagram, it can be hard to focus on your creativity.

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Chanel Thervil mixed media works in process, 2019
Mixed media art - Chanel Thervil -
Mixed media artist Chanel Thervil

About the Artist: 

Chanel Thervil is a Haitian-American artist and educator obsessed with all things art, pop culture, and history.

While roaming the halls of New York City museums as a teen, she often found herself wondering why she felt so out of place. Fueled by her lack of satisfaction with the narrow range of representations of people of color on both sides of the canvas, Chanel decided to pursue a career in art. Her love of talking about art, doing research, and dragging loved ones to museums that they would never walk into otherwise, led her to completing a bachelor of fine arts in painting at Pace University and a master’s degree in art education at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Recently, she’s been making a splash in Boston via her public art, portraiture, and collaborations with institutions like MassArt’s Center for Art & Community Partnerships, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Boston Center for the Arts. She currently serves as the program manager at the Art Connection. Her work was featured in Nine Moments for Now at the Cooper Gallery, which Hyperallergic named one of 2018’s Top 20 Art Exhibitions in the US. She will also have multiple works on view in the deCordova New England Biennial 2019. To learn more, visit her website:

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