Indianapolis Preserves and Showcases its Activist Art from the Stormy Summer of 2020

What does the story look like?

that of Francisco Goya May 3, 1808?

that of Picasso Guernica?

When the story of 2020 is written, it will look like plywood murals spanning hundreds of business windows and painted by artists demanding social justice.

From New York to LA, Minneapolis, Chicago and Indianapolis, the artists expressed their emotional responses to a nation in crisis by taking advantage of free public spaces on which to share their feelings. With museums and galleries closed to COVID-19, their plywood murals have become America’s most attractive and visible works of art. They offered a real-time artistic reaction to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, the murder of Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police, Black Lives Matter entering the mainstream world and the country taking into account its racist history in a wider meaning than ever. previously.

In June, 24 Indy-based artists were commissioned to create murals on storefronts in downtown the city in immediate response to global protests calling for an end to police brutality. The Murals for Racial Justice project was originally organized by the Arts Council, Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc., PATTERN, St’ArtUp 317 and cultural entrepreneur Malina Simone Jeffers.

The original plan was to exhibit more of the murals along the Indianapolis Culture Trail, but the delicacy of the plywood made it unsuitable for long-term outdoor exposure.

Indianapolis arts organizations strive to ensure that these statements are not lost in history.

Indianapolis Central Library

Photographic replicas of more than 20 works of art from Murals for Racial Justice have been transformed into large banners which will be displayed on November 16 at the Central Library, in partnership with the Center for Black Literature and Culture. Individuals and organizations will be permitted to borrow the 3-by-5-foot vinyl banners, free of charge, through the Indianapolis Public Library for display at public and private events.

To document the historical and artistic significance of the murals, DIAGRAM produces the high quality images that are reproduced on the vinyl banners.

“These images have helped us see the world differently,” said Danicia Monét, artist, equity practitioner and design researcher who manages the Murals for Racial Justice project. “One of the guiding principles of this initiative has been commemoration and education. We want to continue to push for systemic change in our local communities and encourage the public to learn more about why this work for justice and liberation is vital. “

Indianapolis Art Center

In addition to plywood murals, another of the most striking and spontaneous artistic visuals in decades has come from Black Lives Matter Street Murals Across the country.

The Indianapolis Art Center presents, “EIGHTEEN: black lives matter” showcasing the work of the 18 local artists who participated in painting a large-scale mural on Indiana Avenue as part of the racial justice movement in August. Each artist took a letter with a hashtag symbol on the front and a fist icon on the back.

“When I went to see the mural being painted on Indiana Avenue, I saw the caliber of work done by the artists – many of whom were unknown to me at the time – on the mural and I I quickly approached the organizers, Mali Jeffers and Alan Bacon, who date to present this collective of talents to the community and present them as individual artists, ”Mark Williams, president and executive director of the Indianapolis Art Center.

“Most of these artists didn’t know each other until they came together to create the Indy’s Black Lives Matter mural,” said Jeffers, a freelance art consultant who represents the 18 artists. “They are all talented and deserve full attention, so we look forward to bringing them to light individually through this exhibition. “

Presented until January 6, 2021, “EIGHTEEN” features paintings, chalk work and digital design. Some the works of art in the exhibition will be on sale at the Art Center, as well as online.

Art institutions have struggled to react in real time to capture, organize and interpret artists’ responses to the various tragedies of 2020. The The botched exhibition of the Whitney Museum of America Art of militant art by being the most visible example.

Williams explained how the Indianapolis Art Center was able to do this effectively.

“My board and our entire team were prepared to act quickly, bypassing some of the usual processes and protocols, in order to respond to a unique opportunity at very unique times,” said Williams. “We were helped by established partnerships and relationships that we could build on rather than having to scramble to find connections at a time that really cried out for the community.”

This last comment is crucial.

Institutions that did not care about racial equality and social justice before, that had not worked with artists of color and activists for many years, found themselves caught off guard by the outpouring of artistic creativity from summer. They could not respond effectively because they still had to recognize internally the problem of systemic racism, both within their walls and throughout their communities. They had to educate themselves on wrestling, debate internally if this was a direction and a commitment they were willing to undertake, and then research and do presentations with the artists and organizers who did the heavy lifting of this work for years.

“This is really what we do, all the time – we reflect and serve the community around us, we encourage and facilitate the conversations that take place and we meet people where they are without expectation,” said Williams. “In short, we are building community through art, and the community needed us to step in at the moment. So we did.

Indiana State Museum

Two downtown murals were donated to the Indiana State Museum by the owners of the businesses, Silver in the City and The Flying Cupcake. They will be added to the museum’s permanent collection.

Plans are taking shape for an upcoming exhibition featuring these murals as well as works by individual artists who have participated in the Murals for Racial Justice program. Many murals remain in the personal possession of the artists who created them and the museum will borrow them for the exhibition.

Williams hopes that the current energy surrounding black artists and the promotion of social justice through works of art continues, and that art museums help lead the way.

“Like so many elements of our society, artistic institutions must be prepared to recognize and dismantle entrenched barriers to marginalized voices,” he said. “Having a unique forum as an artistic institution to address the joys and sorrows of humanity, strengths and weaknesses, beauty and ugliness, we must be more intentional to regularly provide this forum and a safe space to expression to those who have traditionally been denied opportunities to be heard. If we do this, we can help promote a more just and inclusive society; if we don’t, we will simply fail to achieve our goal.

About Hannah Schaeffer

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