BLM liz

Wed, Sep 23, 2020

Lean In: Murals & Artist Residencies

"We're coming together today to make our message loud and clear, that our community does not tolerate hate or discrimination in any form. And this mural will stay here until it no longer needs to remind us of that. If we truly believe that all lives matter then we need to work to ensure that the lives of black, indigenous, or people of color, members of our LGBTQ+ communities, and other marginalized groups are valued the same as everyone else in our community."

This was the statement shared by Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings as volunteers gathered to begin painting a Black Lives Matter Mural in front of City Hall, Saturday, September 13th.

BLM liz

Photo by Liz Birnbaum

The mural was brought to life by local changemakers and artists Abi Mustapha, Taylor Reinhold, Sean McGowen, the Yoga For All Movement plus an estimated 500 volunteers. This community-wide effort makes Santa Cruz the very first city in the U.S. to work with City government not only to approve a Black Lives Matter mural, but also to build a sustainable plan surrounding this public art that includes continued annual Juneteenth events, advocacy, and annual mural maintenance. "I wanted to see our community make a very clear statement about where we stand on racial injustice. I also wanted to educate and bring awareness that there’s still so much work to be done," shares local artist and organizer Abi Mustapha.

Abi goes on to explain the community action plan that is paired with the mural. Stating, "every year as part of our Juneteenth celebrations different organizations with step up to the task of helping to repaint the mural and have the opportunity to be transparent about what they’ve done to help dismantle systemic racism in our community and within their organization. Then, we will also have a community-created committee which will help them identify areas where they’re crushing it and areas where they could do better. City Council will have a similar model as well."

BLM Liz council

Photo by Liz Birnbaum

MAH staffers were happy to step in with our years of community organizing and event creation to coordinate the volunteer efforts the day painting began. Plus, join in and slather a little paint down ourselves. It was inspiring to see first hand the eagerness to support (hello, 500 signups in under a week) and the conversations that arose from a large installation like this. Reflecting on the conversations surrounding the mural Yoga for All Movement shared...

"Is it a performance? No. This is A DEMONSTRATION. This is art, a living symbol of intention and of the earth-shifting power of many beings committed to one goal."

Remember, a few weeks ago in our interview with exhibiting artist Irene Juarez O'Connell, public murals are "the people's museum." Irene shared that she finds power in muralism "because of its ability to build community" and that murals "give the community an opportunity to define themselves." In a similar vein, Abi believes, "this [Black Lives Matter] mural is one step that shows our community cares and is open to making some changes."

The Black Lives Matter Mural is located in front of City Hall at 809 Center St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. We recommend checking back on the Yoga for All website for timely updates and ways to get involved.

Sharing Space

Amidst the precarity of this moment, the MAH staff and board took some time to pause and reflect on the ways we use our spaces and resources. From our gardens to our galleries, we want to explore how we can best make use of these spaces while our doors remain closed to the public. Stepping up to help in volunteer coordination of the Black Lives Matter Mural was an incredible combination of our skills and supplies to amplify community voices and connect with our community. But we know it can't end there.

As the MAH transitions into the fall, we want to embrace the potential of this unique time to create new opportunities to support and sustain creativity within our community. This is why we are thrilled to introduce, Still Processing, a two-month artist residency that invites local artist Abi Mustapha to use the MAH’s Solari Gallery as an open workspace and studio to imagine new large-scale illustrations.

The work created during this residency will be included in the upcoming exhibition In These Uncertain Times, opening in the Winter/Spring 2021.

Cover photo by Liz Birnbaum

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