Arts and Humanities People and Community

The Hoodie Project: Symbol of assumptions

Social Justice Week 2019 begins with an art installation by associate professor Billie Grace Lynn that challenges assumptions made of black men wearing hoodies.
Hoodie installation in the UC Lower Lounge

The hoodie sculpture is one part of artist Billie Lynn’s “Hoodie Project,” which will include a 24-foot tall black hoodie sculpture that will be shown at the Lowe Art Museum this summer. Photo: Evan F. Garcia/University of Miami

The art installation is daunting; it could even be considered frightening to some. Standing nearly 9 feet tall, a black hooded sweatshirt made of foam material towers over onlookers.

Sculpted by Billie Grace Lynn, associate professor of sculpture in the Department of Art and Art History, the hoodie is an attempt to provoke not only meaningful conversations but introspection by “a white person of privilege,” she said. 

“The hooded sweatshirt has become a symbol of racist assumptions about people of color and now it is being worn by those who wish to challenge those assumptions,” said Lynn. “Creating a huge hoodie is not only a metaphor for the size of the problem, but also for the difficulty of being able to empathize with people of different backgrounds. This work is a part of the large reckoning and healing concerning racial injustice that our country is currently undergoing.”

Lynn, who grew up in Louisiana, openly shares details about her racist upbringing. As a child, she was instructed to not play with black children. 

“What happens when you’re young and you get a download—like a computer program—of this stuff and you don’t realize that those beliefs are wrong,” Lynn said.

By the time she was 10 years old, she began to question, why. After studying philosophy and religious studies as an undergraduate, she went on to earn her MFA in sculpture and has produced various solo exhibitions around the country.

Torrey Cosby, a senior majoring in public relations and a member of the Social Justice Week committee, asked Lynn to display her art after being inspired by thought-provoking art.

“It makes me reflect on what it means to be a black person in America,” Cosby said. “It makes me think about my identity as a black man, my role in society and how I present myself, how I act, how people are going to make assumptions because of the color of my skin. And it really makes me kind of cognizant of my status as a black person in America.”

As part of Social Justice Week, Lynn, in partnership with the student committee and The Butler Center for Service and Leadership, welcomed students, faculty, and staff to help graffiti the hoodie with their own thoughts on the topic of racism and discrimination.

The hoodie sculpture is one part of Lynn’s “Hoodie Project,” which will include a 24-foot tall black hoodie sculpture that will be shown at the Lowe Art Museum this summer. The smaller version will be available in the Whitten University Center lower lounge through Friday. Lynn wants her art to be seen as a question.

“I want it to be a question,” she said. “When you look at this, what do you think of?”