Downtown’s Colorful ‘Windows’ Invite You to Talk about Racism with Your Family

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We Won’t Ignore What Happened Downtown

The riots in downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday, May 30, 2020, were an outgrowth of protests over the killing of George Floyd and the lack of accountability for those involved. Since then, talented local artists have been working hard to paint murals and messages on the boards temporarily serving as windows.

The damage done to buildings brought a lot of attention to our city. Some people were shocked that a riot happened here – but others weren’t.

That’s because, as I’ve been learning over the past week, that when we talk about riots, we aren’t just talking about riots.

Riots don’t just happen because people want to throw bricks (and, for the record, white people and minorities both caused damage that night.)

Riots happen because the systems that are supposed to provide justice aren’t working. The art on the windows in Downtown Grand Rapids points to that bigger problem of injustice.

This six-minute explanation taught me so much:

The Race Conversation Is Here, Now

Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old that desegregated an all-white elementary school in Louisiana, is just 65 years old today. We’ve made progress since her valiant efforts, but we’re not done.

Today, people are talking about racism in ways I’ve never experienced before. People are sharing and people are listening and making room for all voices to be heard.

‘Windows’ Opens the Door for Conversations on Race & Community

As artists are literally painting the town with hope and inspiration, the community is invited into the conversation.

Lions & Rabbits is helping facilitate this Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. conversation via a public art project called Windows – a Public Arts Activation.

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Part of their statement:

What is happening in the world right now makes us remember the importance of Civil Rights and the power of Art. It is our job as artists to communicate through our work. Our mission is to intentionally repair our City, educate, and learn together.

This project is being led by artists of color. As a small business, these are the responsible representatives for a large portion of our success. Each one continually creates to inspire and educate. The microphone is handed to these leaders as I firmly believe this is their story to narrate.

I know this art will showcase the good, the bad, and the ugly that is happening in our world today as we educate all to feel justice. Artist leads will create, interact with all participating artists and document the process between.

By recording this through the rightful lense, we will be able to learn from each other, as we see inequities drive our community apart. This is not a bandaid nor is it a solution. It’s the small role we can play to let all voices be heard as we create a safe space for our community to come together.

Artists leading this initiative are still being finalized but Adrian Butler, Leandro Lara, Erik Lauchiè, Jasmine Bruce, Kendall Redmond, and Guillermo Soleto are included.

ArtPrize has taught us how to walk around town, look at art, and talk about it. Now, we’re doing it for a different reason.

WINDOWS

I walked around downtown with my 10 & 13 year olds today. The new artwork spurred deep conversations about what happened in GR, across the country, and why the windows were being painted.

We talked about the messages on the paintings and how our actions can make a difference.

Artists were working and chatting with people passing by.

You can walk the windows downtown with your family and have these conversations, too.

If you’re looking for resources for learning or for talking with kids about race, our FB community has quite a few suggestions.

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