Black Lives Matter:
Voices of Protest, Activism, & Art
Black Lives Matter: Voices of Protest, Activism, and Art is a dynamic exhibition that brings together over 25 Southern California based artists whose work is expressed through various mediums including: painting, photography, mosaics, and more. The exhibition was born out of the desire to breathe new life and energy into the Riverside Community College District’s Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties while at the same time bring public art into the space. The exhibition began with asking the question: What happened to the murals that were created downtown at the Riverside Fox Theater during the summer of 2020 protests?
Over the course of several months during 2020, the streets across US and around the world were filled with people standing up for racial justice, standing against systemic inequity and state sanctioned forms of violence against Black bodies. #BlackLivesMatter—a rallying cry that began in 2013 with the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman—took hold for many in 2020 upon the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. In the midst of protests during the summer of 2020, businesses in cities across the US, including Riverside, boarded up their windows. In turn, artists and creatives (re)purposed the plywood boards, and used them as blank canvases to create public art, including various forms of artistic expression. At the same time, the artists participated in community-building. Riverside and surrounding Southern California area-based artists created the murals that lie at the heart of this exhibition. The murals in the exhibition were originally displayed outside at the Riverside Fox Theater from June 2020 until April 2021. Some of the murals while displayed at the Fox were defaced (for example, with eggs, or a swastika). For this exhibition, nearly all of the murals were not retouched; this was intentional. The exhibition lays bare the ways in which some people responded to the artists’ acts community building, support, and solidarity.
Black Lives Matter: Voices of Protest, Activism, and Art is diverse, full of life and energy. The murals lie at the core of the exhibition and taken together with the works as a whole, therein lies even more beauty, creativity, possibility, and reflection. For example, while some of the photographic prints provide viewers a window into artists painting murals, other images give us a glimpse into quotidian life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the outrage expressed by millions during the summer of 2020 and months that followed. Some works, whether they are oil on canvas, oil on wood, mixed media, or even collage photographs, are abstract and nod toward Black futurity. Furthermore, viewers will see how an artist’s use of primary colors and shading can create stunning portraits of Black women. More than this, the outside has been brought inside, but not only in the form of murals. Palm fronds have been turned into detailed masks and many of the mosaic pieces in the exhibition speak to human life and encourage viewers to remember history and the present. These pieces also reveal the beauty of smalti on its own and what it looks like in combination with springs, fabric, and chains. The exhibition is designed to inspire reflection, imagination, and dialogue in our community.
Director, Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties
Cosme´ Cordova and Ariel Gonzalez