Oglethorpe University student leaders stand alongside artist Shanequa Gay, (second from left) whose work "La Pieta," is the first painting in the school's art museum by an African-American female artist. The students, Brad Firchow (left), Jordan Madison (second from right) and Taylor Roberts (right) used student government association funds to buy the piece in an effort to diversify the museum's collection. ERIC STIRGUS / ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM

Oglethorpe University students make artful move toward diversity

A group of Oglethorpe University student leaders wanted to leave a lasting image to improve diversity on their campus.

On Friday, the students displayed the results of that campaign: the unveiling of the first painting in the university’s 800-piece art museum collection by an African American female artist.

The students used $5,000 from Oglethorpe’s Student Government Association funds to pay for the painting, which they selected. Currently 55% of Oglethorpe’s students identify as nonwhite, university officials said. Oglethorpe, located in Brookhaven, has nearly 1,300 students. About 50 students, alumni and faculty attended the unveiling.

The painting “La Pieta,” by Georgia State University master’s degree student Shanequa Gay, is of an African American mother holding her son. The painting is meant to spotlight African American mothers whose sons have been killed in controversial police shootings and other racially-charged incidents.

“When I thought about the African American males who are constantly coming up in the news and being killed their names tended to overshadow the mothers...Very rarely do you think about their families who have lost them,” Gay told the audience at the unveiling.

Student Government Association president Brad Firchow, a senior, said they chose “La Pieta” because “the work resonates with a lot of issues our generation is facing.”

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