As if being in the middle of a once-in-a-generation viral pandemic isn’t enough pressure on artists and Public Artists to let their talents be their voice, along comes racial injustice and the murder of a human being already in custody and secured by police officers to create more discomfort to their souls. The video of George Floyd’s murder was a haunting image as searing on your visual memory as the Space Shuttle exploding or the World Trade Center falling. To an artist, it burns like Holy Water on a demon. It begs to cry out for the aggrieved, the marginal, the weak and the vulnerable. Answering this calling will occur in private spaces and furiously brushing, sculpting, typing or expressing will not be an immediate response – but one measured, calculated and inspired to be presented later. The emotion gone, the impact softened. No less important – but done at ‘room temperature’. Enter ‘street art’ – Public Artists using their amazing talents with rattle-can-in-hand or brushes in every pocket, they capture the immediate need for emotion to help give us the ‘visual’ we cannot wait for. Such is true for Walldog Niko Alexander and friends in Minneapolis, MN – in what has now become an iconic image like those mentioned above. While The Walldogs are purely ‘historical’ in substance and goal and NEVER ‘political’, there are many among the movement who have the need to speak as individuals and express what some in the movement may also feel, and if not them, certainly a large majority of the nation, currently. For their courage, their foresight in seeing the need to speak out with Public Art, we owe them our respect and appreciation. If a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’ then one more name of an African-American killed by rogue officers surely proves ineffective as a reminder. But THIS mural has become iconic and part of the memorial to George Floyd’s memory. We owe these Public Artists our support and appreciation for helping use Public Art to highlight racial injustice – hell, ANY injustice – and capturing the proper visuals with a careful eye on INclusion and not EXclusion. We. Are. One. People.
Wikipedia states it succinctly: “Art has played a role in social justice education, community building, and social activism/social movements. It provides a universal language that gives voice to individuals and communities and is accessible across social boundaries.”
Thank you, Niko Alexander and friends for ‘capturing the emotion’ and turning this Public Art into an iconic image. Thank you for being OUR voice.