Black Souls Welcome Installation Celebrates Black Identity

Columbia College Chicago’s Student Diversity and Inclusion office organizes space for art that’s for and by Black students.

The Black Souls Welcome installation organized by Columbia College Chicago’s office of Student Diversity and Inclusion returns after a hiatus this month.  

Black Souls Welcome is a talent showcase made by and for Columbia's Black students. The program highlights artists from varying mediums and backgrounds to portray the many facets of Black life. 

The showcase kicked off with a reception on Feb. 20 and will run through March 10. The work will be on display in the fifth-floor event space of the Student Center, 754 S. Wabash Ave.  

“Our hope is that the impact is two-fold; one, that our student artists and creators have the opportunity to showcase their immense talents and two, that our Columbia community is able to celebrate the many facets of Black identity,” says Charee Mosby-Holloway, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion.  

Black Souls Welcome was originally dreamed up by SDI student worker Angel Smigielski ‘21. An acting and poetry student, Smigielski longed for a place where they and other Black students could display their work. Their job in the SDI office and the support of its staff helped make their dream a reality. 

“The creation process was a playground of my imagination considering I was doing something that had never been done before,” Smigielski says. “The SDI family supported my big brain of ideas and helped bring the whole thing to life. If I could, I'd do it all over again.” 

Smigielski says their intention was to give young Black artists a space that showed their work was worthy of being seen and to create a space where the community of students could congregate and nurture one another's talents. When their work was shown in earlier iterations of Black Souls Welcome, Smigielski said that’s exactly what they found.  

“When my own exhibit went up, I was so grateful to be flooded with feedback from Black artists I had never even seen before,” Smigielski says. “I found so much comfort knowing that my work was being received and helping others transform themselves in their own artistic and even personal lives.” 

The program took a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the scope of this year’s event will give more individuals the chance to experience the art.  

Mosby-Holloway along with Anakaren Pinto, Education and Event Coordinator at SDI who led the production of this year's event, see Black Souls Welcome as an ideal encapsulation of the types of events that can support and uplift Columbia students. Such showcases give students both the opportunity to practice and demonstrate their creative abilities, but also express their experiences and celebrate different identities. 

“One of the main goals of SDI’s mission is to create programming and spaces that engage Columbia students in the exploration of their identities; and in understanding the ways in which identity is uniquely actualized, expressed, and lived,” Mosby-Holloway says. “BSW allows us a particular opportunity to think about Black identity and uplift Black voices and creators.” 

One such creator is Cameron Johnson, a freshman in the Audio Arts & Acoustics Department. Johnson, who goes by the stage name 180MINDSET, will be showcasing two original raps with empathetic lyrics about his struggle with self-worth.  

“I feel like opportunities like these are beneficial for artists like me because it gives us more exposure and persuades people to care about the art we give,” Johnson says. “I hope people take away the deep meaning that I'm giving out in my lyrics and be able to feel impacted and inspired by them.”  

Mosby-Holloway believes that while Black Souls Welcome is beneficial for the artists featured, it can also have a profound impact on the larger Columbia community.  

“We hope that participating artists of Black Souls Welcome feel seen and supported by both their peers and the institution. That they leave the event knowing that their voices matter and that their talent is valued and worthy of celebration,” Anakaren Pinto says. “We hope that all present can engage in a moment of reflection, connection, community, and joy.” 

It took a large team from across the college to make this event a success, including student creators, the staffs at the Student Center, the Department of Exhibitions and Performance Spaces, and staff from Student Diversity and Inclusion, particularly Events and Education Coordinator Anakaren Pinto.   

After this year, SDI hopes to grow the showcase further in both the Columbia community and to the rest of Chicago. Anakaren and the team at SDI are already working on next year’s program and welcome artists and creators that want to work with them. Those interested should reach out to Anakaren at 

Photos of this year's event can be viewed on SDI Instagram @columbiachisdi. 

Black Souls Welcome Artists and Performers 2023 

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