BIPOC artists sell and showcase their art at Pomona’s Benton Museum

Students browse at the Benton Museum
Over 100 students attended an event at the Benson aimed to support BIPOC student artists and vendors. (Andrew Yuan • The Student Life)

On Saturday, Nov. 4, more than 20 5C BIPOC student artists and vendors gathered at Pomona College’s Benton Museum of Art to sell and showcase their art. As lively dance music and laughter filled the air, vendors represented themselves and the organizations they came with.

Hosted by the Asian American Sponsor Program (AASP) in collaboration with several 5C affinity groups, the event aimed to promote BIPOC student artists while cultivating a shared space for the BIPOC community. The event, which garnered more than 100 student attendees, aimed to counteract the minoritization of BIPOC individuals in the art world.

According to a 2019 study cited by the journal Nature, minority racial and ethnic groups make up 39 percent of the United States population yet are deeply underrepresented in a myriad of creative industries. Their study of 2,229 contemporary artists found that BIPOC groups encompass around 19-22 percent of the contemporary art, fashion and film industries, while white men are overrepresented in all four of those areas.

Sydney Nemetz SC ’25, a member of AASP and organizer of the event, described the need for 5C BIPOC artist representation while asserting the importance of the Benton as a venue.

“The Benton is wonderful for hosting events as they provide a lot of support through their interns and are also an established art space that can reach beyond just the 5C community,” Nemetz said.

Vendors sold stickers, photographs, prints of digital art, crocheted animals and fiber works. Upon entering the Benton, attendees joined the festivities from the northern side. Vendors were lined up in a U-shaped format that looped inside and outside of the museum. DJ Daniel Velazquez PO ’25 played remixes of popular songs, creating a lively atmosphere for students to enjoy vendors’ original creations.

“At a PWI like the 5Cs, it is not often that [BIPOC artists’] voices or work are specifically spotlighted and supported, especially monetarily. This event can foster community by providing a space for people to interact and the opportunity to support members of their community.”

While the art market provided a space for BIPOC student artists to receive compensation for their work, many vendors allocated their funds towards a wide range of causes, from mutual aid at the Claremont Colleges to humanitarian aid in the Global South. Quyen Ballagh PO ’24 was a vendor with Frid-Aid on the Quad, a 5C organization that hosts distribution events on Pomona’s Marston Quad every Friday.

“Folks are welcome to take anything they want without payment with the slogan ‘take what you want, pay what you can,’” said Ballagh. “For this art market, we paired up with the Encampment Support Network to distribute all collective funds to Palestinian relief efforts in an attempt to provide solidarity monetarily.”

The event also illuminated the diversity of the vendors, both in art styles and monetary intentions of each artist — some hoped to pursue art as a career, some used it as a form of passion and expression and some purely sold their art as an expression of political and social justice.

“The way I engage with art is through a mutual aid collective … [these] spaces are lovely and hopefully help us to look towards queer, BIPOC [and] decolonized futures … in my opinion, art and creativity is inherently connected to our collective liberation,” Ballagh said.

Attendees such as Paige Hazen SC ’26 expressed their admiration for the showcase, commending the Benton for its organization and lively atmosphere.

“So much of the artwork was incredible and everyone was so talented,” Hazen said. “Some highlights were definitely the crochet artists — I loved the leg warmers and cat terrarium. The weaving art by a Pitzer student was also highly memorable.”

Although this is not a recurring event, it was inspired by the 5C Latinx Art Market and Showcase, Nemetz said. AASP hopes to provide spaces for BIPOC artists to congregate, sell their art and support the issues that they care deeply about.

“At a PWI like the 5Cs, it is not often that [BIPOC artists’] voices or work are specifically spotlighted and supported, especially monetarily,” Nemetz said. “This event can foster community by providing a space for people to interact and the opportunity to support members of their community.”

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