Indianapolis Black Lives Matter artists, whose mural is displayed on Indiana Avenue, are using their talents to boost equity in the art community. The 18 Art Collective was formed last summer to use art to create jobs, mentorships and scholarship opportunities.
Group leader Rebecca Robinson, talked with WFYI’s Terri Dee about the role of art in racial protests and the importance of continuing the dialogue on injustice.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: Rebecca what makes the 18 Art Collective different from other artists that have expressed their feelings, emotions and passions with Black Lives Matter in Indianapolis?
Rebecca Robinson, group leader, 18 Art Collective: I believe what makes our collective different is we all came out for the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement. We showed up one day to use our artwork as our voices and we were all working together. But separately, a lot of the artists didn't know one another. We just knew to show up at a certain time to get this (the mural) done so we could continue fighting for justice. Our collective is a lot different because it's taken a year later to figure out that we really, truly organically became a collective and built a friendship and a family.
Dee: Do you think the Indianapolis community has become desensitized to what Black Lives Matter stands for because it has been dominant in the news for the last year, year and a half, or do you think what your organization is doing is going to keep the community engaged?
Robinson: That's a good point. That's an excellent question. And we all spoke about that, after all the hype around us doing the mural, all the press, and we did discuss what's going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month. How can we continue this narrative? How can we keep having a dialogue, because it's important, and it's going to continue to be important.
As far as it being desensitized. There may be some people that feel like OK, well, you know, it's over and done. But I believe it's our job, not just as the art collective, but the Indianapolis community as a whole to continue to embrace this movement, focus on diversity and inclusion and ask these questions. It doesn't stop. I think we have to continue talking about the changes that have to be made within organizations and just with one another.
Dee: Rebecca, do you see art as being as much “in your face” in terms of protests and demonstrations and getting the message out about intolerance to racism, as people who are in the streets and holding the signs and raising the fists?
Robinson: I honestly believe when it came down to, like you stated, raising the signs and raising the fists out protesting, this has been happening for a long time. For decades, the Black Lives Matter movement has been one of the most powerful moments ever. My dad is 89 years old, and he said he's never seen anything like this.
If there was something about the Black Lives Matter movement that made everybody listen, even though they might not have wanted to listen, or see what they saw, I think people have been trying, especially artists to express this for decades. And what makes me proud is that finally the people who have been trying to speak out are finally being heard. And the 18 collective, I'm really proud, because we understood that not only our own perspective on the movement was being heard, but we wanted to bring other people along too.
Dee: Thank you so much for your information and your time today.
Robinson: Thank you.
Contact WFYI All Things Considered newscaster and reporter Terri Dee at firstname.lastname@example.org.