The rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement has touched nearly all parts of American society the past few weeks.
As businesses and artists join the call for equality and justice throughout the country, so too have local artists here in Savannah.
The Savannah College of Art and Design is the latest to join the chorus, commissioning two alums to create BLM works in prominent locations in Savannah and Atlanta. Alumni artists Tayler Ayers (2019) and Will Penny (2013) have created new public artwork to lend their support and echo the nationwide movement.
The vinyl-on-glass murals are displayed on the exterior in prominent locations for all to see in both cities – at the Gutstein Gallery in Savannah and at FORTY in Atlanta.
The murals portray the social justice movement in large font – BLACK LIVES MATTER – painted over a colorful mosaic background.
About two months ago, Ayers was approached by SCAD Art Sales about collaborating on a Black Lives Matter mural, and was excited by the opportunity.
"When SCAD asked me to help create this mural, I instantly knew this is what I wanted to do," Ayers shared.
Ayers’ work is displayed prominently on the exterior of the building, located on bustling Broughton Street, in the heart of the city’s commerce district. The location provides a large platform to share the inspiring message, an opportunity which Ayers calls an honor to be a part of.
"Knowing that SCAD, my university, is willing to stand up for the Black Lives Matter movement makes me very proud," Ayers added.
In Savannah, the location also plays an important role in the Civil Rights movement locally, as the Gutstein Gallery is annexed to the historic Jen Library, formerly a department store where several young black Savannahians were arrested in 1960 for sitting in the store’s whites-only restaurant.
Their arrests sparked a series of boycotts and voter registration drives eventually leading to the desegregation of all facilities in Savannah in October 1963, eight months before the Civil Rights Act.
Ayers hopes those who pass buy the murals will take some of the historical significance and the unifying message with them after viewing.
"I hope people realize when everything is said and done, we are not that different from each other. We all bleed red, eat lunch and want to live safe and happy lives," Ayers shared.
The artists say they are proud to be a part of the project, a collaboration they call a time of listening, editing, learning, and creating with each other.
Their goal is to speak to the injustice that is present in the world, while showing what happens when two people who are visually different, come together to contribute to something larger than themselves.
The messages are a billboard for unity at a time when much of the country is struggling to find ways to come together. It’s a message that Ayers hopes will carry on to the next generation who sees the works.
"To the young children who see the murals, this is for you," Ayers added. "I hope the work that Will and I created inspires you to be who you are and learn to love what makes you unique."
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