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A Local Initiative Aims to Catalog George Floyd-Inspired Murals for Future Study

By Kyeland Jackson

A new initiative by the University of St. Thomas is archiving hundreds of murals in the Twin Cities and across the world to help educate future generations about the anti-racism protests calling for reform - both in the U.S. and across the world - in the wake George Floyd's police killing. 

Called "The Urban Art Mapping George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art database", the project was launched on June 4. Through open-source submissions from the public, the database collects the pictures, locations and artists responsible for murals across the world. Many submissions so far reflect the outpouring of artistic expression in Minnesota - but some are from as far as Bethlehem.

University of St. Thomas Professor Dr. Heather Shirey said that, as of June 10, more than 2,500 people from 35 different countries had viewed the site. There are just over 100 submissions in the database now, but the research team hired students to help sift through a deluge of submissions.

"Somebody just emailed me a few minutes ago and said that they have 400 pictures, all with locations and date identified, to send to me ... earlier today somebody said she has 125 pictures to send to me," Shirey said. "I'm hoping by the end of the summer to have about 2,000 items in the database."

Murals in the database range from intricate pieces which took hours to complete, to simpler graffiti-like "BLM" [Black Lives Matter] or "RIP Floyd." Shirey said the art and graffiti are important for informing future researchers on what to teach students.

"I think people realize how really ephemeral street art is and how quickly it goes away, and how important it is to remember this moment," Shirey said. "We want this database to be something that's not just a repository for images, but also something that can be used actively that we can really deploy to continue to teach anti-racism in the future."

Peruse the art submitted so far or submit anti-racist or George Floyd street art via the school's Google form here. University of St. Thomas Professor Dr. Todd Lawrence said the project will continue as long as necessary.

Taken 100 years apart, a video that captured ex-police officer killing George Floyd bears an eery resemblance to a photograph of three Black men who were lynched in Duluth in 1920. Twin Cities PBS Senior Producer Daniel Bergin reflects on what the images – one moving, one still, both disturbing – say about Minnesota’s long history of systemic racism.

Along with other urban centers across the country, the Twin Cities have a history of racially discriminatory housing covenants that prevented people of color from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. That history ripples in the present-day affordable housing crisis: By limiting opportunities for home ownership, people of color were stripped of one key way to build equity over time. Discover more in “Mapping the Roots of Housing Disparities in Minneapolis.”

Craving new routes for your daily walks? Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul feature “outdoor galleries” of vibrant murals - many of which reveal social justice themes - that might just fulfill your hunger for beauty and meaning in these times of social distancing. Your murals walking tours in Minneapolis and in Saint Paul await, complete with maps for easy navigation.

Kyeland Jackson Read More
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