BRUNSWICK, Maine — Bowdoin College has commissioned a portrait of alumnus and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, who recently announced his candidacy for mayor of Baltimore.
New media artist R. Luke DuBois will create the portrait as part of his exhibition, “R. Luke DuBois — Now,” at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
McKesson, a 2007 graduate of the Brunswick college, has gained national fame for his role in leading a new civil rights movement, advocating for justice after young black men were shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and in his native Baltimore.
He recently appeared on Late Night with Stephen Colbert and joined other civil rights leaders to meet with President Barack Obama for a discussion about race relations in the United States. He was instrumental in the release last year of a report titled “ Mapping Police Violence,” which detailed more than 100 police shootings of unarmed black people.
In September 2015, McKesson returned to Bowdoin to speak to students about his work and to urge them to use “white privilege” to promote justice and disrupt government and social systems that institutionalize inequality based on race and ethnicity.
“I can name white privilege, I can see white privilege and I can see its impact,” he said. “[But] somebody who has it has to use it to disrupt it.”
Mckesson was twice president of Bowdoin Student Government. He then
worked for schools in New York City, West Baltimore and Minneapolis.
DuBois is a New York-based composer, computer programmer, filmmaker and installation artist. His exhibition was organized by the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, and will open at Bowdoin’s Shaw Ruddock Gallery on March 31.
“We are proud to bring ‘R. Luke DuBois – Now’ to Bowdoin College, which is made all the more meaningful by DuBois’s groundbreaking portrait of DeRay Mckesson,” Bowdoin College Museum of Art co-director Anne Collins Goodyear said in a news release. “As a Bowdoin alumnus making an international impact on contemporary society through his political activism, the commission is doubly important as both a witness to our present moment as a nation and as a part of Bowdoin’s legacy, and we’re honored that it will remain here at the BCMA as part of our permanent collection.”
The work “will draw from online networks and social media to create a reflection of both Mckesson and the activist’s most influential modes of communication,” according to the release. “Footage of Mckesson addressing topics crowdsourced from the Bowdoin student body will be interspersed with data and language drawn from Mckesson’s own online presence through Twitter and other social media channels. This time-based portrait will be generative, evolving over time, continually incorporating new material generated by Mckesson’s communication about the issues that motivate his own activism.”