Partnership Spotlight: Talking “Just Mercy” with the Center for Aphasia Research & Treatment

Earlier this month Block Museum staff had the pleasure of connecting with the Book Club of the Center for Aphasia Research & Treatment at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Like us, this group has been reading the One Book One Northwestern selection Just Mercy.  

The club talked with Block staff about works in the museum collection that resonate with the text. Together they discussed the relationship between image and text, how authors like Bryan Stevenson use storytelling to reveal shared humanity, and how works by Donna FerratoPrentiss Taylor and Jacob Lawrence resonate with the power of visual art and social justice today. 

The Center for Aphasia Research & Treatment was created in 2001 to respond to the challenge of “living with aphasia.” Aphasia impairs the ability to process and understand language, including speaking, reading, and writing, while leaving intelligence unaffected.  The Center’s mission is to promote the development and implementation of rehabilitation practices that enhance the communication skills of individuals with aphasia and facilitate their engagement in life activities. 

My breakout discussion section touched on all three works, and drew fascinating connections between them, including how each artist, in different ways, presented us with tightly crowded groups of vulnerable figures experiencing harm or menace from forces beyond their control. My group discussed how Jacob Lawrence was able to so effectively convey a sense of fear, and how Donna Ferrato captures a different sense of community within the prison walls. Learning about the Scottsboro Boys trial was new for everyone, and, from this, we talked about the important relationship between image and text, especially in our climate of racial protests and calls for action.

Erin Northington, Susan and Stephen Wilson Associate Director, Campus and Community Education and Engagement

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