Interactive art exhibit at ASU in remains of 1930s bank focuses on Black Wall Street stories

Mar 31, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 10:02 am

PHOENIX– At the top of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe stands an interactive art exhibit in the remains of a 1930s bank.

The Banking While Black exhibit explores the history and stories of the Black Wall Streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Durham, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia.

“Banking While Black highlights the history of Black banking, the impact of white mob violence and also the resilience and thriving achievements of these Black communities,” said Paul Rucker, the artist and curator of creative collaboration at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The bank was originally located in Richmond, Virginia, and brought out to Arizona, where the walls, teller booths, deposit tables, marble slabs, chandeliers and doors were set up on Arizona State University’s Coca Cola Sundeck.

Throughout the exhibit are withdrawal and deposit slips with QR codes that attendees can scan to learn stories and trivia about systemic racism along with the economic and physical violence Black Americans experience.

“The withdrawal slips talk about bad, negative incidents,” Rucker said. “The deposit slips talk about positive incidents in the three Black Wall Streets that existed.”

He mentioned there are more than 500 facts on the slips.

Rucker explained the exhibit focuses on highlighting the inequalities Black communities face.

“What happened with this bank 90 years ago when it was in existence, there was segregation where Black people could not put money in white banks for the most part. Even in the 1930s, they were not treated the same way.”

Rucker said he hopes when people come to visit the exhibit, they learn why inequity in America still exists today.

“Many people don’t believe that that there systemic and structural racism in place, but there’s inequity that takes on the form of economic violence and economic violence can be part of people going into the bank and being denied loans and jobs,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of focusing on the positives these communities experienced.

“I wanted to give people a welcoming environment of a bank and have that experience because a lot of Black folks have not had good experiences in banks,” Rucker said.

The exhibit runs Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. until April 17. More information can be found on the website.

Video by KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Schnell.

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Interactive art exhibit at ASU in remains of 1930s bank focuses on Black Wall Street stories