As thousands of Americans lend their voices to protests, artists are letting their brushes speak of racial reckoning.
They’re coloring streets with the words Black Lives Matter. They’re spray-painting walls with memorial images in rainbow hues. They’re illustrating fists, flowers and faces and sharing them on Instagram. They’re acting on an urge to create, spurred by the pain of George Floyd’s death and the global pandemic.
Although the term that many use for this kind of work, artivism, feels new, the idea that artists also serve as activists and leaders of cultural change has a deep-rooted history.
“Artists have always been at the lead of protest, resistance and hope in Black communities and other marginalized communities across the country,” says Aaron Bryant, the curator of photography and visual culture at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
As a collective, artists illustrate and impact history. As individuals, they