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Music becomes canvas for Mila Lynn's exploration of Black history

Mila Lynn. Her exhibition Storytelling Through Music was commissioned by the MSU College of Music's Slavery To Freedom lecture series. It's at the REACH
Scott Pohl
/
WKAR/MSU
Artist Mila Lynn. Her exhibition Storytelling Through Music was commissioned by the MSU College of Music's Slavery To Freedom lecture series. It's at the REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing.

Lynn's Storytelling Through Music exhibition can be seen through the end of June at the REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing, weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

A Michigan State University lecture series on Black history is expanding, with a new summertime art exhibition in Lansing.

For more than 20 years, the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has sponsored a series of talks by civil rights figures, authors, and others during Black History Month.

The lecture series has now moved into the world of art, with an exhibition featuring works by Lansing-born artist Mila Lynn. She calls the project Storytelling Through Music. Her watercolors and oils are painted onto old vinyl records, cassette tapes and sheet music from musicians like Sam Cooke, Beyonce and Childish Gambino.

The REACH Studio Art Center was packed for the opening last Friday.

Lynn explained that her vision for the exhibition is to explore the history of Black communication through music, from field hollers to modern recordings.

“Once you get to the 60’s, you have all different types of things, from blues to funk to jazz, and it’s just really a way that we communicate that we’re here,” Lynn said. “I wanted to use these various mediums to make music synonymous with our history, like our telling of us being here, and why not put it on the actual things that we’ve documented it through?”

Lynn’s works were commissioned by the college to expand on its lecture series. Associate Dean Dr. Marita Gilbert said she wants the dialogue about Black culture and history to continue beyond the annual February speeches.

“I actually like that it happens after Black History Month,” said Gilbert. “We decided, though, that we wanted to do this exhibit and have it in a place that’s not on campus, to really bring the series and the art to the people."

Gilbert said she loves the "texture and tone" of Lynn's work. "I thought that it found some alignment with our series," she said.

This is a homecoming for Mila Lynn. Now based in Dearborn, Lynn’s younger years in Lansing included time spent at the REACH Studio. She calls herself an “OG” REACH art student.

“I used to come here when I was a child,” Lynn said. “I did the walk-in Wednesdays, I also did some of the summer camps, and this was back when REACH was like a one-room schoolhouse, and now it’s this massive art center, so this place really catered to my journey to becoming an artist.”

When this exhibition is over, the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine will own these art works. What will become of them isn’t clear yet, but Lynn wants them to continue to be seen.

“It will give individuals within that college a voice,” Lynn said. “It also will be nice to see something that is not just green and white, but reflects the cultures that are within the university, because there’s so many people from all over the world.”

The Storytelling Through Music exhibition can be seen through the end of June at the REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing, weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment.

Scott Pohl has maintained an on-call schedule reporting for WKAR following his retirement after 36 years on the air at the station.
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