It’s been about six months since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd.
It’s been about six months since protesters began filling the streets and some people broke downtown windows. It’s been six months since store owners began covering their windows with plywood, and about six months since artists covered that plywood with art.
More than 100 murals appeared on and around State Street. Some were funded through a city-sponsored street art initiative, and some were created by artists taking their own initiative. 100 more appeared elsewhere around town.
Many of these murals have since come down, but some remain, and the conversation they’ve sparked continues. On Wednesday evening, the artists behind three of those murals gathered virtually for a panel discussion with Chazen Museum of Art director Amy Gilman and University of Wisconsin-Madison art professor Faisal Abdu’Allah, hosted by UW-Madison’s Center for the Humanities.
Each artist emphasized the ways that this experience differed from their previous work.
“I learned just as much from the street artists who were next to me as we were doing this project as I do from faculty at universities,” said Shiloah Symone Coley [Certificate in Studio Art ’20], who graduated from UW-Madison earlier this year and is now earning a Masters of Fine Arts at American University in Washington, D.C.
Taj Matumbi, an MFA candidate at UW-Madison, said he’d never created something so large with spray paint. “I used to do graffiti and I got in trouble,” he said, recalling getting arrested in junior high. When he decided during college to pursue a career in art, Matumbi discovered he could do what he loved without fearing the police.