George Floyd’s ubiquitous portrait is burned into our minds. Nearly four months after his death in Minneapolis police custody, the events of May 25 haunt the Twin Cities.
Business owners covered their windows with plywood boards as protests, riots and looting broke out across the Twin Cities. Artists quickly took to the streets, painting over those boards with portraits of Floyd and graffiti-style messages of hope, healing — and anger, too.
As the protests slowed and business owners started removing boards from their windows, grassroots groups such as University Rebuild and Reuse Minnesota raced to collect them.
Entrepreneur Leesa Kelly, 27, teamed up with the Minnesota African American History Gallery and Museum to create Memorialize the Movement. Kenda Zellner-Smith, 23, launched Save the Boards Minneapolis. After learning about each other through a Star Tribune article, the two partnered up.
Working with Midwest Art Conservation Center on preservation methods, they have collected nearly 200 boards thus far, along with donations from existing grassroots groups. They launched a GoFundMe to raise $50,000, which will fund climate-controlled storage big enough to house boards up to 40 feet long and an annual muraling event beginning next year on the anniversary of Floyd’s death.
Some boards still cover the windows of businesses, like a series in Uptown that were recently defaced. Murals painted on the sides of buildings, like the iconic George Floyd mural on the side of Cup Foods, have a more chilling, permanent sensibility.
“Everytime someone is driving through Uptown or down University Avenue, they are going to see those boards and remember what happened — the injustice brought on George Floyd, the riots, the uprising,” said Kelly. “And I think that’s what’s really important here, to continue that conversation so that his death isn’t lost to time.
“I don’t want it to be another hashtag that is trending and goes forgotten. It’s something we have to continue talking about if we want to see change.”