Community artist Malena Magnolia photographs students for exhibition about sexual assault

Photo series "Believe Survivors" to be held in April

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Magnolia started working on this piece two weeks ago and has taken 80 photos over the span of four hours.

Malena Magnolia, an interdisciplinary mixed media artist from Richmond and Charlottesville, took photographs in front of the Rotunda on Monday as part of an art exhibition about sexual assault she will hold in early April.

Magnolia’s work covers topics such as gender, sexuality and social justice. The April exhibit is titled “No More Violence: A Community in Recovery and The Struggle for Safety.”

The exhibit is part of an overall project Magnolia has been working on since February to discuss and raise awareness about the history of sexual assault in the Charlottesville community and on college campuses.

The exhibit will feature mud stencils created by the community which oppose sexual assault as well as depict the history of sexual assault.


On Monday, Magnolia was working on a piece for the exhibit by taking pictures of students holding a mud stencil sign.

“This is a part of a piece called ‘Believe Survivors,’ which is a photo series of 80 people holding the same sign with the same message — that we need to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable and that we need to believe survivors.” Magnolia said in an email.

Magnolia said she was mainly focusing on including students in her pictures, which is one of the reasons why she chose to work on Grounds.

“Addressing sexual violence has always been a part of me and my work as an artist and activist because I am tired of so many of my friends and family going through this,” Magnolia said. “I chose U.Va. because this is clearly something that students care about and is a huge issue and is one that needs to not be forgotten.”

Magnolia started working on this particular piece two weeks ago. On Monday, she took over 80 photos across the span of four hours.

“My main goal with these images is to depict that so many people within the U.Va. community want perpetrators held accountable, want everyone to feel and be safe, and will openly stand with survivors of sexual assault,” Magnolia said.

The project has also included holding safe space discussions with sexual assault educators as well as a workshop, which Magnolia led to teach others how to create mud stencils against sexual assault. Magnolia said a main goal of these activities was to educate the public.

“About 10 teenage girls in foster care came to my mud stencil workshop,” Magnolia said. “I really wanted to get through to them that sexual assault is when someone, whether it's a friend, family member, or even an intimate partner, touches you inappropriately without your consent.”

Magnolia she said she has always wanted to hold a community-involved exhibition.

“Yes, I am an artist, but I consider myself more of the author of the project,” Magnolia said. “I consider everyone involved and those in the community who are creating stencils, are also the artists in the project.”

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