“Behind Closed Doors” is an art installation by local artist Justin David Brink that will be traveling around Kalamazoo College’s campus this winter quarter. This exhibition consists of two freestanding doors, both of which are painted white but done so as to give them an antiquated look. In addition, each of the doors contains bullet holes, along with a sign to indicate whom the doors are meant for: “Colored Only” and “Whites Only.”
The traveling exhibition was brought to K with help from Kourtney Johnson K’17 who is serving as primary curator, as well as a committee of students, with key members Kiavanne Williams K’18, Erin Butler K’18, and Julia Plomer K’18.
According to Brink, “The sole purpose of the “Behind Closed Doors” installation is to raise awareness about segregation and racism in America. Past and present. And to incite conversations that lead to actionable change. Have we progressed?”
Emily Worline K’19 commented on this topic, “We’re not segregated anymore. We’ve progressed since we’ve had segregated schools, and since those doors were ‘whites only.’”
She continued, acknowledging the difference between progression and where we need to be, “More of it [today] is institutional, and there is underlying racism in a lot of settings. We have a long way to go, but we have definitely progressed.”
The first location of the “Doors” was the entrance to the cafeteria, the second was in the entrance of the library, and they are now outside of the Olmsted Room. Katryn Walsh K’19 said, “I think they are placed very strategically in order to give the audience a perspective of being in a situation back in history. They are trying to evoke an emotion of what people went through however many years ago, and still go through to this day.”
With regards to the location of the doors at actual entrances to various place, Walsh said, “we can’t really place ourselves through those doors since that’s not currently happening to us.”
One of the first thoughts that Worline had upon seeing the doors was that “white people have done a lot of harm.” But she still has hope for even more progression, “As long as we keep placing importance on things like Black History Month, and visuals like the “Doors,” we will move forward because it makes you think about it more.