SUNY Morrisville humanities professor’s photo featured on digital billboard in Washington, D.C.

A photograph by Timothy Gerken, professor of humanities at SUNY Morrisville, is on display in collaboration with Denniston Hill, as part of For Freedoms’ nationwide campaign “2020 Awakening.”

The artist-led collective campaign, which launched on Indigenous People’s Day (Columbus Day) Oct. 12, features billboards that appear in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many touch on pressing issues of the current political campaign process.

Gerken’s photo, on display through Nov. 3, appears on a digital billboard in Penn Quarter, the downtown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., which includes Chinatown, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, the Convention Center and numerous sports venues.

His untitled photograph, a tattooed forearm with the word “Liberation,” was chosen for the project by Denniston Hill, an artist-centered interdisciplinary arts organization guided by the principle that creative and critical voices are important in shaping a just, equitable society.

“Since the project is about asking questions, the photo might suggest we ask what liberation means or whether we think of ourselves as liberated and what we might be liberated from,” Gerken said.  

The launch is an extension of For Freedoms’ campaign, “2020 Awakening,” which centers around the new four freedoms of awakening, listening, healing and justice. The campaign is inspired by the Wide Awakes, an 1860s band of abolitionist dreamers whose communal confrontation of partisan instability led to the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Gerken, of Garrattsville, has taught at SUNY Morrisville for 15 years. A writer and photographer whose work critiques societal power structures, Gerken also serves as director of the college’s Butcher Library Gallery, where he organizes numerous art shows focusing on matters around inclusivity and equity.

He has been a part of numerous photo exhibitions and his writing and photography have been published in many literary journals.

In 2017, Gerken was the first recipient of the SUNY Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice. He also received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service in 2015. 

Gerken’s career includes former chair of the SUNY University Faculty Senate Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity and member of the System-wide Diversity Advisory Council. 

During his tenure at SUNY Morrisville, he served as the first chair of the College Senate Professional Development Committee and worked to establish the faculty mentoring program, the semi-annual professional development conference, and a variety of diversity and social justice programming.

Gerken earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in language, literacy and learning from Fordham University, an M.F.A. in poetry writing from Brooklyn College, an M.S. in English with a secondary school certification from Southern Connecticut State University, and a B.S. in personnel management from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

By martha

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