Skip to main content

April 2016

de Saisset Museum’s New Exhibit Bear Witness Opens April 8

Bear Witness explores the positive opportunities for growth rising out of difficulty

de Saisset's new exhibit opens April 8

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 1, 2016 —The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University will present Bear Witness: Photographs and Interviews by S. Beth Atkin, on view April 8-June 12, 2016.

This new exhibition features pieces from three bodies of work by photographer and author S. Beth Atkin, including one body of work from the Museum’s Permanent Collection. Collectively, the three series explore the personal experiences of youth whose voices might not otherwise be heard, but whose stories continue to resonate with today’s realities.

Bear Witness brings together three very important issues and ongoing conversations. As a Museum, and a University, dedicated to social justice, it made a lot of sense to bring all three bodies of work together to help our community examine these escalating conversations,” said de Saisset Museum Director Rebecca Schapp.

When photographer and author S. Beth Atkin first moved to California to research for her book Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories (1993), little did she know the trajectory this project and two subsequent bodies of work would entail. In interviewing families for Voices from the Fields, Atkin stumbled upon gang associations and connections to other illicit activities.

Atkin pressed forward and began investigating individuals and stories for a new body of work Voices from the Streets: Young Gang Members Tell Their Stories (1996) that provided her access to the underground world of gangs, prisons, and beyond. In developing this series, Atkin had to make difficult decisions about what information to include and even what photographs she could safely take as she found herself privy to information and events that her subjects might not want captured.

From her experience working with youth gangs, she developed an interest in looking more closely at our relationship with guns and how what has become a symbol of violence, fear, and hate maintains different associations in circles outside of urban city life. Her resulting work, Gunstories: Life-changing Experiences with Guns (2006), offers stories from diverse youth who experience guns as weapons, necessary tools, or sporting equipment.

In Bear Witness one finds how Atkin often explores the positive opportunities for growth or advancement rising out of these difficult scenarios. In each series, Atkin served as a conduit for others, expressing their stories, realities, and secrets through a mixture of imagery and text. The exhibition traces her journey of investigation, trust, access, and representation and invites viewers to bear witness with her.  

An opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 7 starting with S. Beth Atkin in conversation with SCU Art and Art History Professor Renee Billingslea from 6-7 p.m., followed by a public reception from 7-8:30 p.m.

About the de Saisset Museum
The de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University is the South Bay’s free museum of art and history. The museum was founded adjacent to the Mission Santa Clara de Asís on the Santa Clara University campus in 1955 and is one of only three museums in the South Bay accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The de Saisset Museum supports Santa Clara University’s goal of educating the whole person through a diverse and accessible range of exhibitions, collections, and educational programs that highlight the art and history of the San Francisco Bay Area. As a center for lifelong learning, the de Saisset facilitates discovery, experience, and inspiration through engaging objects of art and history.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact: Tina Vossugh | | (408) 829-4836