Exhibit tells Black Vermonters’ COVID vaccination experiences

Clemmons Family Farm has an art exhibit, Beneath Our Skin, premiering at the South Burlington Public Library and The Root Social Justice Center in Brattleboro this month.

Beneath Our Skin: COVID-19 Vaccination Storytelling & Art Exhibit showcases the artistic reflections and stories of Black Vermonters and white health care providers of their experiences during the early roll-out of the COVID vaccine.

Clemmons Family Farm gathered stories and art from participants who were either fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all against COVID. 

The exhibit shares the spectrum of emotions experienced by Black Vermonters during the height of the global pandemic, ranging from fear and a deep-rooted mistrust in the medical system, to hope, joy and pride in Vermont’s early leadership in combating the spread of the virus.

Photo by Nani. Clemmons
Clemmons Family Farm agricultural meadows and forest in Charlotte.
Photo by Nani.
Clemmons Clemmons Family Farm agricultural meadows and forest in Charlotte.

The exhibit also features the stories and artwork of three white healthcare providers who volunteered their time to administer the vaccine in communities throughout Vermont.

Most of the participants expressed themselves through narrative storytelling along with poetry, song or visual art. The Beneath Our Skin exhibit showcases participants’ arts-integrated stories through audio, video and print.

Some of the artwork featured in this exhibit showcases nine members of the Vermont African-American/African Diaspora Artists Network and includes poems by Djeli (formerly known as William Forchion), Rage Hezekiah and Yanna Marie Orcel; songs by Samirah Evans and Khonsu X; and artwork by Celine Davis, Travon Groves, Harlan Mack and William Mwanga.  

The Beneath Our Skin exhibit was curated by Yanna Marie Orcel, Clemmons Family Farm’s wellness arts adviser, a multidisciplinary artist. One of her original poems is included in the exhibit.

“This exhibit feels very personal, since it shares the fears, concerns and hopes associated with the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out for Black people, many of whom carry the intergenerational trauma of exploitation and neglect in United States medical and public health arenas. This perspective is often not brought to light outside of the Black community, which makes this exhibit an urgent representation of a historically underrepresented population,” said Orcel.

The Beneath Our Skin exhibit will be open Sundays at Clemmons Family Farm May 19-June 16, and by appointment.

It can be seen at South Burlington Public Library’s Community Gallery Space at 180 Market Street in South Burlington April 10-May 10. 

In Brattleboro, the exhibit will premiere at 6:30-8:30 p.m., April 12, at The Root Social Justice Center at 28 Williams Street in Brattleboro and continue through May 15.

Shela Linton, executive director of The Root, said, “Partnering with Clemmons Family Farm is like kinship. We are grateful to have such extraordinary individuals and this organization here in Vermont.”

“Other organizations have expressed interest in hosting the exhibit, and so we hope to do one or two more installations in Vermont before May,” said Lydia Clemmons, president of Clemmons Family Farm, a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

The Beneath Our Skin COVID-19 Vaccination Storytelling & Art exhibit is made possible with major funding from the Vermont Department of Health. To learn more, visit the website.