The murder of George Floyd and so many other innocent victims this year is yet another sad reminder of our country's need to proactively address systematic racism and police violence. The jury's verdict finding Derek Chauvin guilty is a much-needed first step towards accountability.
I echo many who have called for a moment of pause. Some ask: why reflect, why focus on art, when we are experiencing such social upheaval? Yet, this is exactly the time when art can lead us forward.
Art cannot erase our losses, it cannot stop violence. That is not its purpose. While art cannot change the course of events, it can change people -- it can encourage, enrich, and heal. When people are inspired, they act and behave in ways that can change the course of events. Art has the power to bring us together as a community, to reflect, and to grieve. When art touches us, it can move us toward social change in ways that media and politics do not.
The public art created by recent MECA alumni and faculty this summer honored the victims of racial violence and brought us closer together as a community. Following George Floyd’s death, elegant tall banners “In Memory of Those Taken” were created by MECA alumna Ashley Page '20 and shared with our community in Congress Square Park. Ashley is from Minneapolis, and she created portraits of George Floyd, as well as Mainers Isahak Muse and Chance David Baker. She connected these individuals, celebrated Black lives, and kept our attention focused on police brutality, putting us in touch with the outrage -- we could not look away. The poignancy of “Counting from Thirteen,” a mural created by Indigo Arts Alliance co-founder and MECA Assistant Professor of Illustration Daniel Minter, Hon. DFA '19 and artists Ryan Adams and Titi de Baccarat on Congress Street, signified the people who had fallen as a result of racism since the passage of the 13th Amendment. Professor Minter shared that he was “looking to catch people’s eyes and encourage them to look further.” This work was a gift to the community.
I am very grateful for these installations -- they offered contemplative spaces for all of us to reflect upon and explore what American history means to us.
America continues to face significant problems of social justice, equity, and equality that need to be addressed. One verdict will not make these problems go away. There is much work to do and we will all need to work each and every day to achieve the liberty and justice for all that our nation promises.