From now until February 17, the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Art and Art History is holding an exhibit called “Black Superheroes: From The Comic Book Universe to the College Campus” at the Fine Arts Center.
As the title suggests, the exhibit showcases superheroes and comic book characters of African and African American descent and the impact they had not only in the comic book industry but in the real world as well. The gallery prominently showcases well-known black comic characters including Storm, Black Panther, Blade, Spawn, Luke Cage, as well as the new iterations of Spider-Man and Captain America, who are both of African American descent.
Bob Dilworth, director of the gallery and professor of painting, drawing, design and African American Art History at URI, is passionate about the subject he is showcasing.
According to Dilworth, the idea actually originated as doing an all-encompassing class centered around African American superheroes.
“It got morphed into the exhibit idea,” said Dilworth. “I was doing research and realized there were way more [Black Superheroes] than I thought. We’ve selected about 22 that are represented in this show.” These 22 heroes and characters are represented through the gallery with life size versions of their likenesses and comic book covers they have appeared on through the years.
Dilworth believes that people can benefit from becoming more aware of Superheroes of different races. He actually said that one of the original ideas for the exhibit came from him hearing a speech from a student of African American studies who recently discovered that the anti-hero Spawn was actually black. Dilworth said that black superheroes are about “Race relations, black and African American popular culture and how people of all races come together to benefit each.”
Above all, Dilworth believes that one of the biggest components of comic books is awareness that there should be a sense of inclusion. These are, after all, stories where people are always flying to different planets and encountering different, strange creatures.
The show is open now until February 17, and is located in the Fine Arts Center Main Gallery.