Public Art, Public Rage, & Forward Motion

Public Art, Public Rage, & Forward Motion

Posted June 10th, 2020 by MPLSART.COM Editors

Reflections and resources in response to the Minneapolis Uprising

According to one study, the average time a museum-goer spends looking at a painting is about fifteen seconds. Right now our city is covered in paintings — big, beautiful, tragic murals on the plywood windows of our commercial corridors — and, for the first time in decades, it feels like we’re not looking away. Not yet, at least. 

George Floyd returns our gaze in countless portraits across the city (and across the world): in minute detail, in colorful strokes and somber drips, in blocky stencils spray-painted one after the other. Each one is impactful, each one is galvanizing, each one is a reminder of the atrocity committed by the Minneapolis Police Department and the duty we have — as a city, as a country, as individuals — to meet that injustice and all those before it head on. It’s a heavy burden to put on one man, but the burden is even heavier on us to get it right. Case in point: it turns out at least one of these murals — the most famous one in fact — is itself an act of colonization, for which the artists responsible are now apologizing

COVID-19 has had a compressing effect on time the past three months, flattening out our days until they seem to melt together. George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent uprising has sharpened that flat surface to a razor’s edge; time feels like a knife. It’s now been over two weeks since 46 years of life were snuffed out in less than nine minutes. The fourteen days that followed were filled with marching, donating, organizing, burning, looting, sharing, posting, helping, shouting, crying. Sweeping up glass in the morning, and searching the bushes for gasoline at night. 

And painting; lots of painting. Alongside the portraits of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter tags are dozens of names, an incomplete list of lives cut short by racist violence, painted onto the pavement of Chicago Avenue by Mari Mansfield and emblazoned across foamboard headstones in the makeshift cemetery nearby by Anna Barber and Connor Wright. They are striking works of public art, cathartic both for their makers and for the community. They help us to understand this moment, to contextualize our anger and grief and fear and shame. And they urge us to act. We three authors are already older than so many of those individuals ever had a chance to be, one of many privileges we must put to use in this fight.

This artwork has gone up fast too, alongside a whirlwind of institutional statements and official press conferences and social media posts. Alongside all that beauty and resilience and community, keeping pace, is something sinister and brutally familiar: a whitewashing that has already begun. You can see it along Lake Street, where the ACABs and Fuck12s have been painted over. We keep the pretty art and wash away the angry. The official memory is that the damage done is the work of agitators and outsiders and white supremacists, and while they are all to blame (none so much as the MPD), these explanations steal yet again, taking agency away from 400 years of legitimate rage. Time flattens out, like the map of a stolen continent. 

Standing in the stillness of the cemetery, you can feel the earth moving, but it’s hard to know which direction it’s taking us. We like to tell ourselves that once you see something as momentous as this, that you can’t unsee it. But we do it all the time. The excavators have started their work, razing the burnt out lots to the ground. Soon enough the plywood will come down, too, and the artwork with it. Work is being done to archive the murals in some way, just as work is being done to hold our government and our art orgs and ourselves accountable. It is work that will never finish.

If there ever were a time to slow down, to listen to Black voices, to follow Black leadership, and to help, it is now. We will do the same, to the best of our ability.

We love art, and we love you, Minneapolis.

Yours,

Russ White, Blaine Garrett, & Katie Garrett

MPLSART.COM 


Support

Building a better future for everyone in the Twin Cities is a marathon not a sprint. Below is an incomplete list of publicly available links to resources and opportunities to help out; we are not affiliated with the organizations included on this list, except to be in awe of the work they all are doing. We will continue to update these resources. If you have addendums, please send them to calendar@mplsart.com. 


Critical Health, Volunteering, and Drop Off Locations

 

Visual Art Organizations

JXTA • Springboard for the Arts • Studio 400 • Public Functionary • New Rules

 

Mural Resources

Boards To Murals Resource List • Radical Mural Making Manifesto for the Uprising

 

Neighborhood and Business Organizations

Lake Street Council • West Broadway Business and Area Coalition • North Side Achievement Zone • Native American Community Development Institute 

 

Specific Ongoing Fundraisers

Sanctuary Hotel •  WBC/Northside Funders • St. Paul Chamber of Commerce • Frogtown and Rondo Rebuild Fund
Du Nord Recovery Fund • Holy Trinity Open Doors • Black Visions CollectiveBlack Table Arts • Black Lives Matter (National) •
MN People of Color Pride

 

Food Pantries

CES • Northpoint Health • Masjid An-Nur • Joyce Uptown • Simpson Church • Center for Asians & Pacific Islanders • Aliveness Project • Calvary Church • Division of Indian Work • Somali Food Shelf

 

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