Artists commemorate racial justice movement sparked by Floyd’s murder

At the Northrup-King Building in northeast Minneapolis, Leesa Kelly opened the door to a storage room at the end of a rusted, century-old loading dock. The otherwise drab and dim space bursts with vibrant colors – hundreds of murals painted on four-by-eight plywood.

Kelly, 29, founded the Memorial Movement nearly two years ago to save the paintings the artist created in a week of heartache and anger following the murder of George Floyd by police.

A woman posing for a photo

Memorial Movement founder Leesa Kelly poses for a photo in northeast Minneapolis on May 16.

Matt Sepik | MPR News.

The following year, Minneapolis-based artists were marking the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, exhibiting paintings they created during the riots that ensued.

That summer, as businesses began to reopen, a group of volunteers collected plywood to protect the store windows. The panels include portraits of Freud, as well as frescoes and poems. The team behind this work is expanding into other projects and creating new art.

Kelly, who was Black, knew immediately that the effort had to be led by Black. Her first step in preserving the panels was to put up signs telling galleries and collectors not to take the artwork.

“If there’s going to be a museum, it’s us. If there’s a gallery, it’s us. If we’re going to record, it’s going to be the people we record,” Kelly said. “It’s so powerful for us, and this time we’re going to tell our story the way it needs to be told.”

The commemoration started when friends carried plywood murals in borrowed pickup trucks. Kelly has since created a non-profit organization that organizes community events and small workshops for young artists. In August, the group lent four dozen murals to Waterwheel Center in Long Island, New York.

On Saturday, the Remembrance Movement is hosting its second exhibit to mark the anniversary of Floyd’s murder. This year’s theme is “Justice for George: Our Strength, Our Story.

A woman turns over plywood

Semhar Solomon flips through four pieces of plywood that make up her 2020 mural to mark the fourth anniversary of Philando Castile’s killing by St. Anthony police.

Matt Sepik | MPR News.

“We really want to focus on where we are now and highlight and celebrate the progress we’ve made in this movement. So we acknowledge our strength, our resilience and all that we can accomplish, but continue to have and take back our stories and continue to be stewards of those stories,” Kelly said.

Like last year, the event will include live paintings of new works and breathing space in the presence of Black mental health professionals.

This year’s new show is a one-man show. citizen james Explores author and activist James Baldwin’s move to Paris at the age of 24 in 1948 to escape American racism.

One of the new artists exhibiting work this year is Semhar Solomon. The 18-year-old from St. Anthony is an intern with the Memorial Movement. In 2020, a spontaneous explosion of visual art created in Freud’s memory inspired her to create. four-panel mural In memory of black people killed by police in 2016.

“My piece is ‘Philando Castile: Rest in Power’ for Philando Castile and more. It’s the fourth anniversary of his murder. I started a rally and I wanted a show piece,” Solomon said.

A woman posing for a photo in the garage

Semhar Solomon poses for a photo.

Matt Sepik | MPR News.

The Memorial Sports exhibit is scheduled to take place Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. at Phelps Field Park at 39th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis—one block south of George Floyd Square.The organizer is Find volunteers Assisted in the installation and removal of 70 pieces of plywood.

After this weekend, the organization will continue its community outreach efforts and look for a permanent space to store and showcase the series that has grown to an estimated 1,000 panels.

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