July 9th, 2020
By Veronica Vale
During the COVID-19 quarantine, we were inspired to see the creative, innovative ways that people stayed engaged with the art community from the confinement of their homes (check out our blog on the Isolation Art Challenge for our take on one such art engagement). Now with the powerful, inspiring resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, we have been truly heartened to see the compelling ways in which art has been used to bolster this movement, from city-commissioned street murals, to pop-up George Floyd memorial portraits.
We’re honored to witness in real time such prime examples of the incredible, enduring power of art and are moved by the inspirational people who wield their creative and artistic talents for such a pivotal and long-overdue cause. Inspired as we are, we wanted to share a few of our favorite examples of Black Lives Matter-inspired art activism.
We love to see our Gallery MAR artists contribute their voices and talent to the Black Lives Matter movement. Jylian Gustlin, pays beautiful homage to the movement with her painting, “Black Lives Matter.”
Perhaps one of the first and most recognizable murals to emerge from this movement, this public artwork by artists Cadex Herrera, Greta McLain, and Xena Goldman, has evolved into a makeshift memorial for George Floyd. Originally painted on the side of a Cup Foods grocery store down the street from where George Floyd was arrested and murdered by police, this mural has quickly become an iconic image of the Black Lives Matter movement and was even featured as the digital backdrop at George Floyd’s memorial service.
Houston-based artist Reginald C. Adams pays moving tribute to George Floyd’s life and legacy with a harrowing mural in George Floyd’s hometown. An American flag covers George Floyd’s mouth – both a nod to the masks of COVID-19 and, as Adams puts it, a symbol of “the oppression that has been choking and suffocating the African and Black community.” Arresting us with piercing eyes, this George Floyd mural echoes Floyd’s heartbreaking final words, “I can’t breathe.” The hands of protestors line the bottom of the mural, reflecting Adams belief that, “we can’t just talk about it, we have to take action, we have to stand together.”
In our own Salt Lake City on 300 West and 800 South, a group of anonymous artists has painted a series of murals honoring George Floyd as well as Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, Dillon Taylor, Darrien Hunt, Michael Chad Breinhold, and Bryan Pena Valencias — all people of color killed by the police in Utah. In this image, artists work to retouch the mural, which was vandalized with tar twice in June 2020, sending out a powerful message to the Salt Lake community of the perseverance of love and art.
Denver artist Thomas “Detour” Evans collaborates with Boston-based artist Hiero Veiga to create this vivid, haunting mural of George Floyd’s somber portrait, adorned with ornate flowers. Evans writes of the collaboration, “two black muralists coming together in Denver to let their art speak. Hoping to usher in the next generation of artists, and especially black artists, that will use their art to make change in society.”
Sometimes a simple, understated artistic message can be just as powerful as any amount of detail or intricacy, as demonstrated by this child’s rapt attention to this pop-up mural by Malik Crawford and Jerome Tiunavan.
Sisters Jaeda Nichols, 11, and J’nyah Nichols, 10, pose with a mural by Jamari Taylor, painted during the Color the Creek’s Black Lives Matter project in Battle Creek, Michigan. We hope you’re as uplifted as we are to see how confident and strong Black women artists can inspire our nation’s children.
As inspired as we are by these gorgeous examples of Black Lives Matter-inspired art activism, if you’re looking for more ways to actively contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, here are a few organizations you can donate to that support Black artists and Black creative innovators.