Artist behind "White Only" signs talks to 7

Posted at 8:10 AM, Sep 22, 2015

They're signs that sparked outrage and conversation among University at Buffalo students, and even garnished international attention.

White pieces of paper reading "White Only" and "Black Only" were seen above water fountains, elevators and bathrooms at the University at Buffalo. 

7 Eyewitness News learned the signs were part of an art project. Graduate student Ashley Powell posted the signs as part of her art class with the goal to create a conversation about race. It didn't take long before people all over the world were talking about her art.

"The whole reason that I did the project in the first place was to show people you are trying to avoid a race discussion," Powell said. "This discussion is here, it's real and it needs to take place."

Powell calls herself an activist artist and says she did this for a "race intervention." But many people were not in favor of her work.

"It's bitterly offensive," said Micah Oliver, who is part of the Black Student Union group at UB. "I never in my life thought I would see that."

"The pain that people are showing is clear the telling reason of why we need change in society," Powell said.

The signs have since been taken down, because many people didn't know they were part of an art project.

The University at Buffalo stands by Powell's expressive art.

"The controversy surrounding this is unfortunate, but is also an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that UB is a place that can grapple with tough issues in a way that illuminates rather than divides," said Teresa Miller of UB. 

The Black Student Union is planning an open forum to discuss this artwork and what they say is the University's lack of response to this issue. The forum will be held at Norton Hall room 112 at 7 p.m. 

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