Illustration by Derrick Thomas

In the midst of large-scale societal shifts, many great works of art were born. The intense emotions that come with revolutionary changes to our everyday lives are often the driving force behind many works of art we admire today.  

“Guernica” by Pablo Picasso is a powerful anti-war painting shown in classrooms all over the world. “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene De La Croix commemorated the masses of people who sought to dethrone a corrupt king. These and countless others not only offer a glimpse into the past through the perspective of the people but also solidified those sentiments and ways of thinking in the pages of our history books.  

Today, the nationwide protests demanding justice for Black Americans who have lost their lives to police brutality have opened up a conversation about race in America and what it means, specifically, to be Black in America.  

The Black Lives Matter movement is nothing new to our society, as racial injustice and inequality has existed for centuries. The video of George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, sparked rage in people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures. From chanting in the streets, to spreading information via social media, to creating petitions and fundraisers, people from all walks of life banded together to fight racial injustice.  

The artists of today play a critical role in the movement by creating pieces that not only commemorate lives lost but embody the heart of the movement itself. With more light being shed on the experiences of Black artists often overshadowed by white counterparts, there has been a collective effort by artist to better recognize and eliminate racial bias that has developed in the art community. 

For Derrick Thomas, an art major at UM, “All of the events going on are inspiring me to make more Black art and pro Black content. Whereas usually I would only make Black art every so often. As far as what I plan to do for the movement, I want to have conversations and make Black issues known.”  

His art is often digital, finding the overlap between celebrity controversy, political talking points and prominent issues in the Black community.  

Elle Brown, another art major at UM, said that at least half of the profit they make from selling stickers out of their online art store goes directly to bail funds for protestors.  

“With my work I’ve tried to be conscious about being inclusive with the body types and skin tones I draw. I’ve noticed that the majority of references online are white… It’s something that I didn’t notice before, so majority of my work is centered around white people and white bodies, which just isn’t acceptable. I’m definitely more aware of my online presence and I want to have a positive impact on the movement, not hinder it.”  

Art and those who create it are essential to any movement, to truly reflect the shift in thinking of the people and continue to open up the conversation.