Indiana State University Newsroom

Alumnus shares his art with campus for Black History Month

February 27, 2023

For Indiana State University alumnus Bryant Clayton, it was an honor to return to his alma mater this Black History Month to take part in celebrating the African American story through his art.

Clayton, a 2016 graduate who now resides in Houston, Texas, is the playwright of the ten-minute play, White Nostalgia, which was presented during a public event on campus on Feb. 16. The reading, along with the performance of Clayton's musical piece, By the River, took place at the Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts as part of the events for Public Blackness, an exhibition in all of ISU's art galleries.

The play was written in response to two paintings that are still on display at the Swope Art Museum and on Feb. 17, the day after it was performed at ISU, Clayton's play was read aloud at the museum. The actors who read the two-character play were ISU retired professor Brad Venable and recent ISU Theater Department graduate Kiara Dowell. Stage directions were read by Emma Olsen, a senior at ISU.

"I wrote the play as a part of a writing assignment in Arthur Feinsod's playwriting class in 2015," Clayton said. "He tasked us to be inspired by works of art in the Swope Art Museum and write a one-act play. I used the paintings, Hush Somebody's Calling My Name and White Cloud, because each evoked themes of loss, barrenness, and hope."

"The song featured, By the River, was inspired by the classic, Down By The Riverside. I wrote the song influenced by relational heartache, later understanding that personal relational challenges can reflect larger struggles with the self and with society. I believe this song is a good example of how African Americans have coped through sorrow and found solace amidst pain."

Clayton earned a bachelor's degree in Multidisciplinary Studies, concentrating on cultural and community studies. He was a President's Scholar and a part of the Honors College. Clayton went on to study psychology at the graduate level in Indianapolis and has just completed a Ph.D. He is currently completing a post-doctoral fellowship in Clinical Psychology at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas. He is also a music producer, songwriter, and artist with the publishing company, Serenity Label, founded by his collaborator and friend, Brandon Jones. His latest musical piece, Transplant, was released in April 2022.

Clayton is an outstanding ISU graduate who excelled at ISU and is now an inspiration to all, especially young African American males studying at the university.

"It was an honor and a pleasure to have him back at ISU for this event," Feinsod said. "He also contributed great wisdom and insight for the panel discussions that followed the readings of his play during the Public Blackness events on campus and at the Swope."

"Bryant and his many scholarly and creative achievements while at Indiana State and in the years that followed his graduation are not only well-deserved feathers in his own cap, but also in those of the Departments of Theater, Multidisciplinary Studies and the Honors College."

Said Clayton: "Without ISU and the many people who have sowed into me, my professional trajectory would look much different. I would likely be pursuing a medical degree rather than integrating both artistry and psychology. It's a testament to instructors in the humanities encouraging me to be myself, never lose creativity, and change the world using a multitude of skills. Many thanks to the Charles E. Brown African American Cultural Center, the ISU Theatre Department, and the President's Scholarship for each being integral in offering support, formation, and direction in my four years at ISU. The playwriting class in particular is an example of how instruction in the creative arts can help students think and create critically."