Eugene’s arts and culture scene engages in racial justice | Arts & Culture

The Black Lives Matter movement struck a widespread resurgence nationwide and ignited a huge response across Eugene, including within its local arts and culture scene. A wave of support towards BIPOC artists has begun across the city; racial justice themes have popped up in a variety of art mediums and many locals have shifted their focus to addressing these topics head-on in an artistic and creative way. 

BIPOC Artist Collective

The BIPOC Artist Collective came together in June 2020 to bring support, networking and resources to Black, Indigenous and artists of color in Eugene. On Juneteenth last year, the group came together to paint a sprawling Black Lives Matter mural on the street in front of the Wayne L. Morse Courthouse downtown, which became a focal point in the local movement.

Since the debut of its Facebook group in June, over 750 members have joined. Each week the discussion page fills with posts of new art opportunities, praise for local art and general support for the artists within the community.

George Floyd and Breonna Taylor Mural

A beautiful colorful mural depicting the faces of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, two Black people who were killed by police officers in 2020, popped up in October downtown near Broadway and Olive Street. The mural brings their faces to life in vibrant blues, purples and yellows with “We will always see you, we will always say your name” written across the top and bottom in large letters.

The piece also lists the names of 13 other Black people who were killed by law enforcement officers, noting at the end of the list that there are many others. The mural was commissioned by local businesswoman Betty Snowden and painted by an anonymous artist along one of the walls of a building that she owns.

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art Black Lives Matter Artist Grant Program

Jordan Schnitzer, president of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, partnered up with the JSMA to develop an artist grant program last year. The grant is dedicated to supporting local artists who wish to develop art pieces in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The JSMAs at the University of Oregon, Washington State University and Portland State University each selected 20 artists to award $2,500 grants to from across their states. The artists come from different backgrounds and will use a variety of art mediums to reflect on racial and social justice. All 60 artists were chosen and announced in late November. 

“This Is My America”

Kim Johnson, assistant vice provost for advising at the University of Oregon, released her debut novel, “This Is My America,” on July 28, 2020. The book investigates racial issues present in the justice system through the lens of 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont, who is fighting to save her innocent father, a Black man on death row, as well as help her brother who has been accused of murder. Through her journey she tackles the deep racism that plagues her town in a fight for her family’s innocence. Johnson captures injustice in America in a beautiful book geared toward educating young readers.

While the racial justice movements in Eugene have stayed active into the new year, the arts and culture scene has thrived alongside it. There are many more opportunities on the horizon for artists and art enthusiasts locally to continue to advocate for racial justice through an arts and culture lens. 

Angelia S. Rico

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