When Windows Become Canvases: Street Art for Social Justice

Astounding numbers of peaceful protesters across America are demanding accountability from law enforcement for the continuous brutalization and murders of Black, Brown and Indigenos civilians, namely starting after the consecutive and mass-publicized murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

Angelenos have both heard and seen the aftermath of 1992 protests in response to Rodney King’s beating, so it comes to no surprise that LA businesses boarded up their store-fronts in response to looting that has occurred aside from the peaceful protests, which began early this June.

These plywood boards, which otherwise appear as symbols of business-owners fearfully defending their property, have become blank canvases bearing different messages. A dialogue has emerged from them, between businesses owners, artists, and protestors displaying their support for the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement — to end police violence and dismantle systemic racism in the US.

For this week’s feature of We’ll Bring the Streets to You, we’ve highlighted the range of protest art that has surfaced on these plywood “murals” around our HQ in Venice, and beyond:

In Venice:

The contribution of Venice’s Black community has been largely excluded from the city’s history and development, which brings up a juxtaposition of ideas as boarded-up businesses are now covered with messages denouncing racial injustices.

Even though African-Americans originally helped build Venice, they were at the time only permitted to live a mile inland in the community of Oakwood. The Oakwood community has still struggled to maintain its roots, with Black residents leaving their homes after feeling targeted by law enforcement and ongoing tech-driven gentrification.

Boarded-up Venice as we see it today though, during a revolution and global pandemic, has been covered with monochromatic portraits of countless Black victims whose lives were taken at the hands of racist violence. These portraits, painted by female graffiti artist Jules Muck aka “MuckRock”, aim to amplify the support that Venice’s small-business owners have for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ingrained in the Venice community 10+ years and known for her skill in portraiture, Muck was immediately called on by Venice friends and business-owners to express their solidarity on the plywood that covered their businesses. She was first asked to paint George Floyd’s portrait on Fabric Planet, which she later returned to paint Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland — each one taking less than 30 minutes to complete and painted with donated house-paint and spray cans.

Photo by Cici Girod. Graffiti by Jules Muck. aka “Muck Rock” outside of The Little Prince, in Venice. Portrait on the left is of George Floyd, and on the portrait on the right is of 23-year old Elijah McClain, who died at the hands of the Aurora police last year and whose case is currently closed with no convictions.

Muck says she’s been met with much encouragement from the Venice community and will continue putting up portraits with and without permission. She agrees that without her notoriety and trust from the community, these pieces might have been met with resistance—and that in one case the store-owner allowed it because he was “scared shitless”.

In lieu of payment for her time and work, she asks fans of the work to donate directly to Black organizations leading the movement.

As businesses begin to open up and the temporary shields come down, how might our Venice community and beyond take these expressions of solidarity inwards and implement revolutionary changes?

This work is happening across the country, in line with the national movement for racial justice. Check out the We’ll Bring the Streets to You video to see these windows-turned-canvases across cities: including the The Trust Your Struggles (TYS) collective amplifying BIPOC voices in Oakland and artist Ki’erre Dawkins painting the barricades of the Civic Center Park monument in Denver.

Article by Cristina Girod

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