Phoenix, Arizona – After the death of George Floyd in May 2020, people from around the world flocked to the site of his murder in Minneapolis to leave behind signs, paintings and poems in honor of his life and to protest against systemic racism. Now, hundreds of these artifacts are on display for the first time outside of Minnesota, allowing viewers to engage with the emotional protest art and to mourn not only Floyd, but also other Black Americans killed by the police.
The exhibit, titled “Twin Flames: The George Floyd Uprising from Minneapolis to Phoenix,” features approximately 500 artifacts left at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd was killed. It showcases paintings, poems, signs and other pieces left by protesters and mourners, providing a powerful and raw representation of the feelings and emotions surrounding Floyd’s death and the broader message of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Visitors to the Arizona State University Art Museum in Phoenix expressed the significance of being able to engage with the exhibit, highlighting the opportunity to connect with this important part of history and to learn about the movement against racial injustice. For many, seeing the artifacts in person offered a different and more impactful experience than simply watching the events unfold on TV.
The urgency and emotion behind the artifacts are evident, reflecting the immediate need for people to express their anger and grief after witnessing Floyd’s death. According to Jeanelle Austin, director of the George Floyd Global Memorial, many of the artifacts appear to have been created hastily, underscoring the intensity of emotions in the aftermath of the tragedy. The exhibit aims to create a space for understanding, discourse and collective action against police violence and systemic inequities in the U.S.
Beyond honoring George Floyd, the exhibit also serves as an opportunity to examine the historical neglect of the inequities faced by Black Americans and other marginalized communities in the context of museums in America. Rashad Shabazz, a university professor and board member at ASU’s Center for Work and Democracy, sees the significance of bringing the exhibit to Arizona, a state with its own history of police violence dating back to the early 20th century.
The connections between Minneapolis and Phoenix are made explicit in the exhibit, drawing parallels between Floyd’s murder and the fatal police shooting of Dion Johnson in Phoenix on the same day. Organizers of the exhibit hope to bring it to other cities as well, recognizing the broader international impact of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The exhibit is a poignant reflection of the ongoing conversations and actions being taken to address the issues of police violence, racial segregation and systemic oppression. By showcasing the power of art in sparking conversations and potentially driving change, museums like the Arizona State University Art Museum are contributing to the broader societal dialogue about these critical issues.