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kelli rae adams: Forever in Your Debt


  • Current Exhibitions, Exhibition

  • On view through July 7, 2024

Artist kelli rae adams will be on-site many weekends throughout the exhibition run, check below for the schedule. 

Student loan debt in the US today totals over 1.7 trillion dollars and is collectively borne by more than 44 million Americans, including artist kelli rae adams. With her installation Forever in Your Debt, adams converts this abstract burden into a tangible volume. She has crafted hundreds of wheel-thrown vessels, sized to collectively hold the average individual student debt —$37,000—in the form of coins. Each unique bowl holds approximately a pint of mixed change, worth about $40; this is also the value she assigns to the labor embodied in each vessel.

Adams offers viewers the opportunity to engage directly with the work—and the issue—by inviting them to fill a bowl with their own collected coins. In exchange, the artist will send one of the bowls to each participant at the conclusion of the yearslong project. As the vessels are filled, the red interiors—a reference to “ being in the red” or owing more money than is earned—are gradually obscured by the coins, reflecting the incremental erasure of student loan debt.

With this work, adams connects the cost of her own education and the skills it afforded her while drawing attention to how labor is valued and what is often a wide gap between educational costs and earning potential. With its participatory dimension, she asserts that the student debt burden and its ramifications socially and economically impact all Americans. This sentiment is shared by the many lawmakers and activists who are calling for some degree of forgiveness and who note the entrenched forms of economic inequality perpetuated by the loan system, with first-generation college students and African American borrowers among those most adversely affected.

Artist kelli rae adams will be on site (see times below) to facilitate participation in her project Forever in Your Debt and talk with visitors. To realize her vision for this work addressing the student debt crisis, adams invites museum patrons to contribute their collected household change to the installation. Those who offer enough mixed coin to fill a bowl (approximately a pint or $40 worth) will be registered to receive one of the handmade vessels from the installation once the yearslong project is complete. While they will not be tracked, smaller contributions are also welcome and appreciated.

Upcoming Dates:
Saturday, November 4 & Sunday, November 5, 12–3pm
Saturday, November 11 & Sunday, November 12, 12–3pm

You can also participate through the artist’s website: kelliraeadams.com/participate

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks on the student loan debt crisis, her work to help struggling borrowers, and how adams’ installation powerfully communicates how urgent this issue is.

kelli rae adams
Forever in Your Debt
Glazed ceramic, coins
Courtesy of the artist and contributors to date