The result of George Floyd’s death has led to massive demonstrations, changes to policing in Colorado, conversations about systemic racism and has shed a light on other minorities who have been …
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The result of George Floyd’s death has led to massive demonstrations, changes to policing in Colorado, conversations about systemic racism and has shed a light on other minorities who have been killed by police officers.
Among those minorities whose death has garnered national attention is Breonna Taylor — a 26-year-old Black emergency room technician.
The New York Times reported that on March 13, Louisville Police officers executed a search warrant and used a battering ram to enter Taylor’s apartment. Taylor and her boyfriend were in bed when they heard a bang on their door, and after an exchange, her boyfriend fired his gun. Officers also fired shots that hit and killed Taylor.
Media reports say police had been investigating two men who were thought to be selling drugs out of a house at a different location than Taylor’s home. The New York Times reported that a judge signed a warrant to allow the officers to search Taylor’s home, because they believed one of the men allegedly selling drugs had used her home to receive packages.
No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment, and one of the officers from the incident was fired. Two other officers involved in the incident were placed on administration leave.
The Kentucky Attorney General and the FBI are looking into the officer’s conduct in the case.
In honor of Taylor, Lakewood’s NEXT Gallery artist Chelsea Lewinski painted a mural of her at 6851 W. Colfax Ave that was completed at the beginning of the month.
The newspaper talked to Lewinski about her mural, what role art plays in highlighting racial inequality issues and more.
What inspired you to paint a mural of Breonna Taylor?
A lot of the community wanted to come together to raise awareness around Breonna Taylor’s case. A local member of our community had put out a call for artists, specifically looking for a woman of color, that would be interested in painting a mural for her in our city to keep the conversation going. I was highly interested and reached out to be involved. I’ve never been a person who is good with words. With so much going on in our country, it can sometimes feel difficult for me to speak up and articulate my words correctly. Even this interview has given me some anxiety. Art is something that I use to speak, it’s my voice. I knew I wanted to spread love and light during this time, and if art is a way for people to connect with the victims, me as an artist and the community, then that’s what I have to keep doing. I have to keep painting. After we got the conversation going, it was kind of a snowball effect. So many people wanted to donate funds to help provide me with paint or whatever I needed in order to make this happen. It was amazing to see and truly was so inspiring.
What impact do you hope your mural will make?
I think in times like this some people might downplay just how important art is. Art creates unity from afar, it spreads positivity, it amplifies voices and our messages, and it can help our black and brown communities recognize that the people around them stand with them in this fight. In communities, it’s crucial that we speak up —even if it’s on walls. Historically, we’ve always been visually expressive beings. My hope is that this mural not only raises awareness for Breonna Taylor, but for so many others who have fallen victim to police brutality. I hope that the conversation starts from a place of deeper understanding and love. It’s a way to honor the lives that have been lost.
How do you think art can help solve racial inequality issues?
What we see matters. And seeing beautiful brown skin does nothing but make the world more beautiful. Music and art is a universal tool that is used to communicate and raise emotions no matter what your skin color is, no matter where you come from. Verbally communicating a message is important but attaching those words into something memorable and beautiful reinforces that message. At the end of the day, our messages need to have a strong impact, just as strong as the hate crimes that portray the inverse. Art can stop someone in their tracks. It makes them stop and digest what the artist is trying to say and if a mural can make even ONE person who wants to learn more and inspires them to research, then I think it’s helping. It’s shifting the narrative not just in that one person’s life, but because of that shift, it’ll also have an impact on the people in that person’s life as well.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I’m currently in San Francisco painting a mural for Sean Monterrosa who was killed on June 2nd. He was 22-years-old and was shot at five times while on his knees with his hands in the air after cops responded to reports of alleged looting. I’m going to do everything I can to keep painting murals and raising awareness against social injustice, similar to murals I’ve completed in Denver. I’m trying to do those type of murals in other cities as well. When I return home, I have two murals that I’m really looking forward to completing. One is a mural of a black man who is surrounded by flowers and plants. I want to start the conversation about how men of color are portrayed as violent dangerous men. Men should feel comfortable being vulnerable, feminine, and should be loved in all their forms. We can start by normalizing the femininity that lies within us all. Another project I’ll be working on is with Lady Justice Brewery where I’ll be painting three influential women—RBG, Marsha P. Johnson, and Dolores Huerta.
How did you get into the art scene?
I’ve been drawing most of my life but almost two years ago, I started to take it more seriously and really wanted to make it my career, so I started painting more and more and really worked on my craft. I wanted to master portraiture. Eventually, I was introduced to murals after attending countless art shows. I painted my first mural in May 2019, and I’ve been addicted to it ever since! I quit my job and have been wiggling my way into the Denver art scene one wall at a time. In September of 2019, I tried to use spray cans for the first time, and I think that’s when my career shifted. It has truly been the most rewarding adventure. I’ve met so many amazing artists, mentors, friends and supporters. I’m so excited to see where it all takes me.
This interview was edited for clarity.
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