ArtStreet examines the true meaning of ‘ghetto’

By: Mallory Roshkowski – Staff Writer

ArtStreet launched an installation taking a closer look at the appropriation of the word “ghetto” in our culture and on our campus. The world premiere of “GHETTO: A Retail Art Installation,” which opened Tuesday, will run through March 31 in the White Box Gallery.
The interactive retail experience examines the historical use of the word “ghetto” and how the meaning and weight of the word have changed over time. The gallery takes a commercial approach, since a majority of Americans can easily relate to a retail mindset.
“Each time the word ‘ghetto’ is used commercially, it loses poignancy and historical weight. The installation looks to put power back into the word by reappropriating the cultural appropriation that has occurred over time,” Director of ArtStreet Brian LaDuca said.
The idea for this project began 18 months ago when the University of Dayton faculty and staff got together to discuss the use of the word “ghetto.” LaDuca was one of these faculty members, who decided ArtStreet should do something about it. LaDuca is from the south side of Chicago and when he came to UD, he was surprised at the use of the term “ghetto” on campus.
“That term should hold weight, it should have baggage,” LaDuca said. He thinks the term “ghetto” has a historical significance that’s disappeared due to popular culture’s reappropriation of the word.
Rodney Veal, a professor at Sinclair Community College, approached LaDuca about the idea of turning the ArtStreet gallery into a luxury pop-up shop where “ghetto” is sold. The exhibit uses consumer culture to allow individuals to collect and reflect on where the term came from and what it truly means.
“Our hope is to create conversation,” LaDuca said. “The worst thing you can say is you don’t care.” The idea is for individuals to debate and understand the meaning of the word “ghetto” and ultimately recognize that the power of the word has been taken away and it needs to come back.
“GHETTO” features three layers to help the participants get the most out of their experience. The outside of the exhibit represents the first layer and is designed to draw consumers in, just as any luxury retail store would.
The second layer is the alternative retail pieces on display. The pieces are part of the spring collection, “Uprising,” and include five couture gowns, bracelets and cuffs, perfume and handbags. The spring collection called “Aka-demy” features a special line geared towards college students.
The third and final layer is the message behind the product’s look, price and material. LaDuca hopes that attendees will be hit on all of the levels of the exhibition and spark conversation.
“It’s not about not saying the word; you don’t learn from that,” LaDuca said. “What we do learn from is being conversed with and having a voice.”
In addition to the retail art installation, there will be a focus group conducted in a creative format on Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to allow viewers to unpack what they saw. The focus group will reconvene March 25 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. to give participants a chance to reflect on the exhibit and hone in on their developed opinions.
“GHETTO” will be on display from Tuesday through March 31 at the White Gallery at ArtStreet. ArtStreet is open 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and noon to midnight Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 937-229-5101 or visit www.udayton.edu/artstreet.