About the Black Art Matters Festival

Three students stand in front of a wall with two paintings and the words Black Art Matters. To their right, a man in a suit enters a doorway into the gallery.
The entrance to the 2023 Black Art Matters visual arts showcase on Opening night.

The 2024 Black Art Matters Festival

The seventh annual Black Art Matters Festival will take place from February 29th through March 2nd, 2024. 

2024 Schedule of Events
February 29 | Black Art Matters Visual Showcase Opening at the Mead Art Museum
March 1 | Music @ Amherst presents Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science (link)
Saturday, March 2 | Black Art Matters Performance Showcase at the Eighmy Powerhouse

BAM History

The Black Art Matters Festival affirms and celebrates Black student artists and creators. Zoe Akoto (Class of 2021) started the Black Art Matters Festival in 2018 in a student dormitory when she noticed that the creative work of Black students was rarely seen on campus. Over the past seven years, the annual Festival has blossomed further under the care of student artists and organizers, with support from the Mead Art Museum and Multicultural Resource Center.  Comprised of a visual arts showcase and a performance showcase, the Festival highlights an expansive range of creative practices including all visual media as well as spoken word, dance, and music.

Akoto notes that events like the BAM festival are particularly important, since elite arts and culture organizations are predominantly white and have historically overlooked Black artists. “That’s true for the artists whose works are on the walls and the people behind the scenes who put them there,” she says. “It's hard to feel like you have any ownership over a space, institution, or professional field when you've never seen yourself represented there... [The BAM Festival makes a statement] for Black students, of Black students, and by Black students—that our culture and our bodies belong in museums and are meant to be regarded and influential in that space.”

The Black Art Matters Festival is still growing, and the 2024 iteration will welcome performers from all the Five Colleges, fulfilling one of Akoto's original dreams for the event.  Today, the Black Art Matters Festival is a collaboration between the Mead Art Museum, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Black Student Union, and the African & Caribbean Student Association.


A side view of a performer with short, curly hair singing into a mic in a warmly lit room. On the right going out of frame is a crowded audience in seats.
The 2023 BAM Performance Showcase at the Eighmy Powerhouse