‘Deliver Black Dreams:’ Columbus art initiative promotes racial equity

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The city of Columbus is teaming with local arts groups to promote racial equity.

This week, a joint announcement came from the city, the Maroon Arts Group, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) about the creation of the “Deliver Black Dreams” campaign.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the multifaceted campaign will first focus on hiring Black artists to create more public art throughout the city.

“Art has always been a response to very painful moments,” explained artist Marshall Shorts, a member of the Maroon Arts Group and creative director for the campaign.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and ensuing civil unrest throughout the country, Shorts was among the local artists creating murals around the city. His artwork adorns the side of a shipping container at the Maroon Arts BoxPark on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the King-Lincoln Bronzeville neighborhood.

“We want these murals not just to be window dressing,” Shorts said. “We want them to be a reminder of what happened this year and what continues to happen.”

He explained the artwork is only the first phase of the Deliver Black Dreams campaign. Commissioned artists will create large murals around the city, grants will invest in Black photographers and filmmakers, and mentorship opportunities will be available for young and aspiring artists. Many of the murals painted onto plywood boarding up windows during protests will become a temporary art installation, moving to different locations for display.

“Art begins the conversation,” said Sheri Neale, chair of the board at the Maroon Arts Group. “It helps make things, for some people, palatable.”

The groups hope to connect cultural products like public art to tangible changes in the Black community.

“We’ll be talking to residents, figuring out what their dreams are so we can strategically move forward and so we can deliver Black dreams in education, we can deliver Black dreams in education, we can deliver Black dreams in food safety,” Neale explained.

In a statement, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said the following:

“Columbus should be a place free of racism and oppression—a place where all our residents can thrive, not just a few. The city of Columbus believes in investing in public art by African Americans that will inspire our community now and in the future. The installations of public art for Deliver Black Dreams will lift up the hopes and aspirations of our minority residents and challenge our broader population and city leaders to commit to equity in all walks of life. There is no greater calling than bending the curve of history, and the future, to justice and equality. Now, more than ever, Columbus strives to be a city where we can and will Deliver Black Dreams.”

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther

Shorts added investing in the black community is an investment in the community as a whole.

He said, “We believe delivering Black dreams is delivering the dreams of all people in Columbus so that everyone can live abundancy.”

Funding for the public art and visual expression components of Deliver Black Dreams is provided by the City of Columbus, American Electric Power Foundation, Huntington and Grange, with additional support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the Art Unites Cbus project, and Orange Barrel Media.

Upon approval, Shorts and Neale anticipate the first large-scale art installation on 5th Avenue to start this fall.

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