George Floyd was killed in south Minneapolis where 16-year-old Ty Taylor had grown up. Taylor, who is Black and biracial, already felt afraid of the police. After Floyd died, his fear grew exponentially.
“I remember being scared to go outside with all the rioting and police,” said Taylor, who attends PiM Arts High School in Eden Prairie, where he focuses on graphic design. “I just wanted to stay inside because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
When Emmy Shanley, his former teacher at Groves Academy, asked if he wanted to work on an art project with her to express their shared feelings about racial injustice, he quickly agreed.
Shanley had Taylor as a student in fourth grade at Groves, and then tutored him for four more years. After Taylor went to high school at PiM, she remained close with him and his family. They bonded over their shared love for artmaking. Shanley also runs a small print and design business in Minneapolis called Cold Press Creative which they could use as a platform.
“People in Minnesota and across the country had this strong desire to do something,” Shanley said. “We didn’t want to stay silent and complicit. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew that Ty wanted to do something, too.
“It’s kind of a form of therapy for both of us.”
The two met up and started brainstorming, writing down quotes from various civil rights leaders, and making doodles of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis and John Lewis, among others.
They quickly came up with the “Black Lives Matter Collection,” a series of four prints, each with powerful messages about fighting back against racial injustice.
Shanley brought the handwriting and calligraphy; Taylor did the graphic design.
In one, a silhouette of Angela Davis’ Afro, the quote reads: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
In the MLK print, the quote, “There comes a time where silence is betrayal,” is spelled out across his hair and forms his chin; a black hand in the shape of a “shhh” has the text MLK printed into it. The other two prints state BLACK LIVES MATTER and “Know Justice Know Peace.”
Shanley quickly put them up on her Cold Press Creative shop site (coldpresscreative.square.site/anti-racism), and the two spread the word to family and friends through word-of-mouth and Instagram.
“We were thinking we’d maybe get $500 and that’d be amazing,” said Shanley.
Within two weeks, they’d hit $1,000, and a couple of days later that number rose to $1,500. Before they knew it, they’d raised nearly $2,000 and decided they had to find somewhere to donate it.
When Taylor and Shanley met with Roger Cummings at Juxtaposition Arts in north Minneapolis, smoke from burning buildings still hung in the air. Juxtaposition Arts employs young people on the North Side, training them for future jobs in creative fields. Since its founding 23 years ago, it has taught about 3,000 children and young adults.
JXTA, as it’s called, was one of the minority-run arts organizations damaged in the riots.
“What they were doing was authentic and supportive rather than maybe people just coming for the photo opp,” said Cummings. “They were using their talents to generate a message and resources.”
The organization normally employs 70 youth, but COVID cut that number down to 35. The $2,600 that Taylor and Shanley donated went directly to employing four apprentices for six weeks over the summer at a time when small businesses relied on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to stay afloat.
“I know how much it means to me,” Taylor said of the BLM Project, “and I feel like a lot of other people can see how much it means.”