Solidarity in Art: The Black Lives Matter Murals of SoHo
Photo Credit: Apple Diamond
The colorful shop windows of Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Apple, among many others, serve as a beacon for bustling SoHo shoppers and tourists. However, in a time of eeriness, with boarded up storefronts and desolate streets, cries against racial injustice transformed them into plywood canvases of change. In spring, the faces of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Aubrey, and far too many others, lined the streets of Lower Manhattan as the vacant boards became socially and politically charged murals, capturing the power of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“When I had heard that artists and painters had gone to transform what was this grim look of plywood into these great statements about the Black Lives Matter movement, it was incredibly powerful to have it so immediate,” shared Art Teacher Eric Baylin. “You didn’t have to pay or go to a special place like a museum to engage with it. When you see art in a public space, when you see it on the street, it speaks directly, and there is something very dynamic and powerful about it.”
These murals provided an outlet for artists to illustrate the frustration and anger that many Americans were feeling following the brutal murder of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans. Taking a mundane space, like boarded-up plywood, and turning it into a commentary on injustice is just as much an emotional experience for the artist as it is for the audience. When we get the opportunity to see art that reflects our current mindsets and reciprocates our feelings, it has the power to become an essential unifier in times of aggravation and discontent.
“We all have different ways of being in the world, and that coincides with how we reflect and use our voices,” Mr. Baylin explained. “Art is about who we are as human beings and how we live in this world, and there are so many ways that can manifest, and one way is on an emotional level like what we see here.”