The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Johnson Florvil, one of the many seniors graduating from the New Hampshire Institute of Art this weekend, Kelly Sennott photo.

New Hampshire Institute of Art BFA Exhibition

Where: Gallery locations include 148 Concord St., 77 Amherst St. and 88 Lowell St., Manchester
When: On view May 20 through May 27; opening reception May 20, 6-9 p.m.
Tickets: $25 to the opening reception, available at

Big weekend
NHIA BFA exhibition opening, graduation this weekend

By Kelly Sennott

It’s the biggest weekend of the year for New Hampshire Institute of Art seniors.

First, they showcase art they’ve been working on all year in the school’s annual BFA Exhibition, on view May 20 through May 27, with an opening reception Saturday, May 20, from 6 to 9 p.m. Less than 24 hours later, they graduate during the commencement ceremony at the Palace Theatre on Sunday, May 21, from 2 to 4 p.m., which features an address courtesy of National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu.
Seniors have been working all year for this moment, and the general public can see the nearly 1,000 undergraduate works in a variety of media — paintings, illustrations, prints, ceramics, sculpture, graphic designs, photographs, comics and creative writing — in the school’s three Manchester galleries on Concord, Amherst and Lowell streets during regular gallery hours.
Some graduating seniors grew up nearby, and some, like Johnson Florvil, an illustration major from Florida, traveled far to study up here in New Hampshire. He’s worked hard to get to this point, having spent the better part of 2017 working on this collection, and his pieces, like so many others on view, are rich in meaning.
“[Professors] prepare you for your senior show, but you have to put in the work. And for me, that’s my first priority. I am far from home, and my parents are helping me pay for school, and so I’m putting in that work because I know how much it took for me to get here,” Florvil said during a recent interview at the school. 
Florvil’s collection contains six digital illustrations representing what it means to be African-American today, divided into two three-piece series. “The Justice Series” comprises images reflecting his responses to current events involving race. One painting depicts an African-American man with a noose around his neck, and another shows one in chains. The last pictures his interpretation of Lady Justice. “The African Series,” he said, means to celebrate his race and portrays African-Americans looking beautiful and strong.
For Florvil, it was strange, coming to New Hampshire in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and observing shootings and police brutality from a place much less diverse than his hometown. 
“Moving here, it was like, OK, you’re definitely a minority. I stood out more,” said Florvil, who said he suddenly felt the need to be more cautious, trying not to look “intimidating” while walking down the street or shopping in the store. “I wanted to talk about race and some of the issues that have been going on in the media, especially the past few years I’ve been here. … There have been a lot of changes, and a lot of things that are being spoken about, and I felt like I wanted to touch upon them within my artwork.”
Florvil’s inspirations include Thomas Blackshear and J.C. Leyendecker, and he describes the work as having an art nouveau style. He chose the medium because of its ease of use and because he felt becoming adept in the digital realm would make him more employable in commercial art fields after college.
All art is available for purchase, with proceeds from the sale going directly to student artists. The show’s opening also includes munchies from food truck vendors and beer from craft brewers, plus wine, refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. 

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