The new exhibit, “The Road to Equality, 2013,” pairs freedom riders’ 1961 mug shots with recent photographs and memories and includes a number of photographs of freedom riders taken by Eric Etheridge as part of his book, “Breach of Peace.”
“When I decided to include these mug shots in my artwork, I was so struck by how young these students were and what an impact they had on the future of our country,” said Grosser. “It made me think of my own students, who have the same potential to affect change in society. As a teacher, I want to nurture my students’ desire to change the world for the better.”
The opening this month coincides with the 52nd anniversary of the arrival of freedom riders to the Montgomery Greyhound bus station. Project organizers, the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, intend for the exhibit to extend the award-winning work already completed on the building’s exterior to both tell the story and convey importance of the 1961 freedom rides.
On May 20, 1961, 21 students arrived at Montgomery’s Greyhound bus station in hopes of compelling the government to enforce U.S. Supreme Court decisions outlawing segregated transportation seating and facilities. Mob violence met the interracial student group and led the Kennedy administration to issue a sweeping ruling that effectively ended segregation in interstate bus, train and air transportation. To this day the freedom rides represent, for many, a turning point in our national history and highlight the power of nonviolent protests.
Grosser was one of 15 artists selected from many who responded to a national call to create artworks for the Freedom Rides Museum opening.
Each of Grosser’s six pieces is a “book” that opens and shuts and features the Mississippi mug shot of a freedom rider who passed through Montgomery. Racist and hate language cut from books published in the 1970s is laminated on the exterior. Inside, a frontal mug shot shows the young rider and on the opposing page is a solid black silhouette of the side shot.
The set includes male and female and black and white riders. Each of these riders came through Montgomery in May or June of 1961, either through the Greyhound or Trailways station. They knew they were heading to jail in Mississippi.
In addition to the works Grosser has created about health care inequities in the U.S. and racial tension in the American South, she is developing a series of pieces about being Jewish and coming to terms with ethnic and racial hatred spawned by the American Neo-Nazi movement.
Grosser earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Barnard College, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from Alfred State College of Ceramics and a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from Ohio University. Grosser was awarded the Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the South Carolina Arts Commission and was a finalist for the Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts Regional Fellowships in Sculpture. Her piece, “Fragments of Hate #6,” was honored at the Pee Dee Regional Art Competition in 2011.