Every day as she walks to her desk, Ann Marie Russell passes a Haitian-made artwork on the wall. And nearly every time, it makes her think of something different.

Russell, who directs the college’s Office of Institutional Research, Analysis, and Planning, purchased the work online a few years ago while redecorating the office in Lane Hall. She wanted pieces that would symbolize both the work of the office and the spirit of the college.

And how, exactly, does this work evoke the world of institutional research with its swirl of numbers, facts, and data? “My intellectual eyes see a spreadsheet, which ties in well with our data work,” she explains. “But through another lens, I see interconnection. Maybe it’s a web, or a net, or a basket; maybe it’s meant to hold something precious.”

Anne Marie Russell poses with “White Branches,” an abstract work of art made in Haiti. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Importantly, all its parts connect, and that’s Bates. “We believe that the Bates community connects to the world as a single human family,” she says. The piece was handmade by Haitian artisans from locally sourced, organic materials. “It doesn’t get more Bates than that!”

Russell’s heritage is Jamaican. Having a piece of Haitian art in her office makes Russell also think about the African diaspora and Afro-Caribbean self-identity.

“Jamaicans and Haitians were once together as Africans until we were separated by the slave trade and Middle Passage,” she explains. “In that sense, the artwork is hopeful: It’s about breaking down the human boundaries that were created between us.”

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