Darkness to light: FIA features eye-opening exhibit 'Flint Is Family In Three Acts'

FLINT, Michigan — The first act of the multi-part art exhibition, Flint Is Family In Three Acts, expands on nearly five years of the Flint Water Crisis, and is currently on display at the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA). 

The Flint Is Family installation features photographs, videos, and text that embody the struggles and triumphs of Flint residents, and was made possible by a partnership with the University of Michigan’s Stamps Gallery, a part of Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

The FIA opened the exhibit in mid-September with a weekend of celebrations, including a reception in which the artist LaToya Ruby Frazier and others engaged in a Q&A with the audience, and a book signing for Frazier’s Flint Is Family In Three Acts book.

Frazier, who first traveled to Flint as part of a commission to create a photo essay about the Flint Water Crisis, is an award-winning visual artist, photographer, and advocate. Her most recent accolades include the Gordon parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize which she won for Flint Is Family In Three Acts. She is currently an Associate Professor of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

For the project, Frazier collaborated with two Flint artist-activists Shea Cobb and Amber Hasan to document the spirit of Flint and its residents as the city endured one of the worst man-made disasters of our time.
Flint youth Aniya C. visits 'Flint Is Family, Act 1' at the Flint Institute of Arts.
Frazier’s first act features generations of women in Cobb’s family including her mother Renee’ and her daughter Zion. Act I (2016-2017) features the women in aspects of everyday life from working together in the yard of their family home to attending the wedding of a family member all whilst the effects of the crisis hovers; it is the unwanted guest. 

In the second act (2017-2019), Cobb’s father, Douglas Smiley, invites her to return to the family’s homestead in Newton, Mississippi. He exclaims, “This water won’t kill you. Come home.” Cobb and her daughter spend time connecting with family and nature. A photo features the two drinking fresh water from a spring at the family’s property.

Act III (2019-2020) features Frazier’s return to Flint as she documents the significance of grassroots advocacy during the water crisis.

Through the work of Hasan, the Atmospheric Water Generator was made available to Flint residents at no charge. The generator provided clean water to hundreds of Flint residents. 

Frazier stated that she developed Flint is Family in Three Acts to advocate for access to clean, safe drinking water. “No matter how dark a situation may be, a camera can extract the light and turn a negative into a positive,” she said. “In creating Flint Is Family In Three Acts, I see the role of photographs as empowering and enacting visible change: in Act I, the photographs bear witness and reclaim history; in Act II, the photographs reveal a hidden narrative; in Act III, the photographs are a catalyst for obtaining resources.” 

The installation will be on display until December 30, 2022.

Genesee County residents can visit the Flint Institute of Arts for free Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m-5 p.m, and Sunday 1 p.m-5 p.m. 
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