A group of volunteers in southeastern Connecticut is working together to create public art focused on racial justice and education.
Public Art for Racial Justice Education, or PARJE, formed over the summer shortly after the killing of George Floyd.
"We were absolutely galvanized into action by George Floyd's murder. We intend to make it up to him by not stopping," said Eddie Long, who serves as the co-chair of PARJE. "We intend to keep the fight going."
David Good, minister emeritus of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, is one of the founders of the group. He said that public art can send an important message to communities and help start a conversation.
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"It is very important to celebrate racial justice champions, but also to remember the painful part of our past," said Good.
The first project is underway. It is a mobile piece of art that is meant to travel from school to school, public space to public space. One half of the project depicts Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. The other half of the project shows the bridge as the artist hopes it will be in the future.
"By reimagining existing public art and creating new art, we can retell and reflect centered on BIPOC experiences," the members of PARJE explain on their website.
The second project will involve sister murals, one in New London and one in Old Lyme.
The murals are meant to connect the two towns and highlight stories of local communities of color.
"For us to break down some of the barriers between our communities," said Good.
"They will include themes or subjects about lesser known heroes of the past or tragedies that took place in the past that don't often get discussed," said Long. "It is a safe way to start the conversation. It gets a lot of eyes, a lot of visits."
The mural in New London will be located at Fulton Park. A location in Old Lyme is still being finalized.
The goal is to eventually tie in towns across the southeastern CT region. The group is also putting an emphasis on recruiting artists of color for the projects.
"The art will draw you into the conversation, but there is more that has to happen," said Long.
Members of PARJE say the public art will be a jumping off point. Their main focus is education.
"Public art is wonderful, but it is not enough to resolve the systemic racism that we have in this country," said Good. "It is only effective if it creates the kinds of conversations and the kind of community building that is so necessary to motivate people to actually get involved, roll up their sleeves, get to work."