This week we have chosen to feature a work of art outside of the Museum’s Collection, and in fact, just outside of the Museum itself. Asheville’s dynamic Black Lives Matter mural was installed from North Pack Square to South Pack Square in the heart of downtown on Sunday, July 19, 2020.
Led by Councilwoman Sheneika Smith, in collaboration with community groups and leaders, the temporary installation was approved by Asheville City Council and organized in partnership with the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC) and Katie Cornell, AAAC Executive Director. The project was completed by 20+ local artists and was funded by individual donors and in-kind business support to cover the cost of supplies, maintenance, and artist honorariums.
The mural’s location was the site of the recent Black Lives Matter protests in May and June and holds an extensive history. The mural surrounds the 75-foot Vance Monument, which was concealed in early July while Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ task force develops recommendations for the removal and/or repurposing of the Civil War monument.
According to the Asheville Area Arts Council “…this project hopes to promote racial healing and communal reconciliation, while galvanizing solidarity and celebrating a collective movement towards addressing systemic racial issues locally.” Each individual letter in “Black Lives Matter” serves to spark conversations about race, inequality, injustice, and privilege among locals and visitors alike.
We had the privilege to speak with local artist Joseph Pearson during our Member Program: Conversation With the Artist on July 8. Pearson moved to Asheville in 2015 and is an accomplished national and international award-winning painter specializing in portraits, murals, and figure drawing who served as the lead artist for the word “Black” in the mural. “Art freeze-frames certain issues and points of view, but it also offers a different perspective—an artist’s perspective—on whatever is going on,” said Pearson. “Because it is visual, it forces folks hopefully to stop and spend enough time in front of the work to really think about whatever it is that the artist is saying. My work in particular has always been my form of communication…it doesn’t matter if folks agree with me, but I do want to evoke a response from people whether it be intellectual or emotional…I want to know that they are engaged in the work and that they are thinking about the work. The hope is—depending on what they take away from it—to act on that, and to take it back into their communities and back into their families, and in that way, art can affect change.”
We encourage you to walk along the installation, stopping at each letter to listen, learn, connect, and discover the stories told by the artists. Together we must understand the history of injustice and continue to participate in the difficult conversations and ask the difficult questions. To view the individual letters and learn more about the participating artists listed below, please visit ashevillearts.com/blm/.
(B) Dustin Spagnola
(L) Jas Washington
(A) Autumn Nelson
(C) Ovidio Acevedo
(K) James Love
(L) Michael Barnard
(I) Walter Dickerson
(V) CJ Randall
(E) Beth Ivey
(S) Timothy Davidson
(M) LaKisha Blount
(A) Rahkie Mateen
(T) Trey Miles
(T) Kela K. Hunt
(E) Broderick Flanigan
(R) Faustine McDonald
Additional Volunteer Artists: Michelle Acevedo, Manuela Acevedo, Joseph Crimmins, Stephanie Flores, Nastassia Hearst, Ethan Hunt, Hasana Hunt, Kaleb Hunt, Trazon Mason, Sanii Thomas, Pamela Washington, and Arabelle Watters.
~ Contributed by Communications Manager Steph Wisnet