Part-time Parkite’s art exhibit ‘Skiing in Color’ aims to start conversation about race
When many people in Park City think of skiing and races, their thoughts usually turn to the World Cup and the Olympics.
The Christian Center of Park City and visual artist Lamont Joseph White, a part-time Parkite, see race and skiing differently and will present an art exhibit designed to use winter sports as a conversation starter about race relations and social equity.
“Skiing in Color,” which will be on display from Dec. 1-13 at the Christian Center, is a 20-piece painting exhibit created by White that depicts African Americans in winter-sports gear, something, he says, that is not as widespread as it could be.
“One of the underlined themes of these works is my hope that if people see all Black faces in ski gear, conceptually, it will trigger some thoughts so they will feel different the next time they get on the mountain and see a person of color skiing or snowboarding,” White said. “The collection, which at this point will be ongoing, is about having a conversation.”
The conversation White is referring to will start with a free panel discussion regarding race and winter sports that will be held virtually at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, on the Christian Center of Park City’s Facebook Live page, said Executive Director Rob Harter.
The panel, moderated by Harter, will include White, Dr. Jacqueline Thompson, former Coordinator of the Educational Equity Department in Davis School District; Raymond Christy, advocate for small business owners, women and minority business owners; Raelene Davis, Ski Utah vice president of marketing and operations, and Mikell Brown, senior loan consultant at Christian Roberts Mortgage.
“I thought what a perfect opportunity with all that’s going on and the conversations about diversity and racial equity,” said Harter, who has known White for eight years. “Why not set up an art exhibit and then host a panel discussion that will give us the opportunity to have a conversation and to interact with art? Art is such a great form and safe place to start conversations about difficult subjects.”
White, while thinking about the art, wanted the paintings to coincide with some of the experiences he has had being an African American who lives in Park City.
“I’ve had certain moments when I realize the residents aren’t used to being around people who don’t typically look like them,” he said. “While I’m used to being in environments that aren’t diverse, I kept thinking about what I could do to help create a more diverse environment through the power of visual representation to help all sides see and think about inclusion.”
White began working on the paintings in January, four months before George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis while in police custody, an incident that kickstarted a nationwide conversation about race and systemic racism.
“After that happened, I started to see more articles of skiers of color — not just Black, but Latino and Asian skiers — who had things to say in magazines and other publications regarding the incidents they experienced in the ski industry,” White said. “I then realized there were several perspectives where we could look and bridge the gaps and make things more comfortable all around.”
White said he began earnestly creating the works after he overheard a local business owner say, “Black people don’t ski.”
“He was forming a strategy to advertise outdoor products and was asked about putting a person of color into the ad,” White said.
Although White could understand what the business owner was trying to say, he felt those words set up a self-fulfilling prophecy for the reason many people of color choose not to ski.
“I tend to downplay any economics for reasons, because people of color can spend their money on things they want to do if they feel like they belong there, or are welcome there,” he said. “I feel if I represent persons of color skiing in my artwork, people would eventually get used to seeing persons of color on the slopes. And people of color, who may not see themselves in this environment personally, may start to change their perceptions, too.”
Although White’s first paintings were of generic faces in goggles and parkas, he began painting recognizable African American pioneers in winter attire.
“I started painting Black heroes — Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman,” he said. “I wanted to bring them to the slopes with us, because it was so far away from their own environments. I want to close the furthest gaps for those who have fought to create an environment that has led to me being on the mountain. One of the further distances to travel in America may be from the slave ships to the ski slopes, and you have to think what it took to get here.”
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