Local artists, activists against police brutality host gallery at Capitol

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Lansing artist Naviah Reyna,19, and her mother went to the front of the Capitol building during Downtown Lansing Inc.’s June 1 community cleanup effort the day after the downtown unrest and tried to sketch some chalk art onto the sidewalk, but they were quickly instructed to pack up the chalk and take it elsewhere by two Lansing police officers. This weekend, she’s returning, but she’s asking fellow artistically-inclined activists to join her.

“Art at the Capitol,” invites the public to join together with their artwork, no matter the medium, in order to create a makeshift outdoor art gallery and bazaar in support of the nationwide protests ignited by the death of George Floyd — and countless other black men and women, such as Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks — at the hands of the police.

“Two officers came from the Capitol. One of them said, ‘Hey, you can’t do this right now.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? It’s just chalk,’” Reyna said. “The officer said back, ‘With everything going on right now, you just can’t do that. Somebody spray-painted ‘F the police’ on the steps.’ I just thought, ‘OK, but that’s not what I’m doing.’ And I’m scared of the police, so I just packed up my stuff.”

Reyna said Downtown Lansing Inc. encouraged her to draw the chalk mural elsewhere, but she felt too bummed out about the experience to carry on and opted to go home instead.

Reyna shared her experience via a Facebook post and was contacted by her close friend Evelyn Tremble Talbot and eventually got in touch with several local art organizations and promoters, such as The Upside of Hurt, ARTSpace, 517 Living and The Bedroom Session. This collaboration helped Reyna get the word out about Art at the Capitol.

“After I made a Facebook post about the chalk incident, Evelyn inboxed me and said ‘Hey, I love what you’re doing, I have this really big canvas you can use to try and recreate it.’ We just started talking and said, ‘Why don’t we create an art event to get people out there and bring some positivity to Lansing.’”

Reyna said she hopes the day will see a peaceful, positive get-together for local artists to share their work with one another, as well as demonstrate support for the movement against police brutality. Reyna, a Latina woman, said she feels closely affected by the violent police mistreatment of minorities — with the black population in particular being disproportionately affected —  that is all too common in the United States.

“People of color are getting murdered. It’s sad. I have family members that are black, I don’t want anything to happen to them or anybody I know. It needs to be changed.”

The image Reyna attempted to create before being asked to leave was to feature a black woman’s fist in the air gripping a bouquet of flowers, she also planned on incorporating the likeness of George Floyd into the piece. She has a version of her vision on canvas that she’s bringing with her to the Art at the Capitol event Saturday.

Art at the Capitol

Saturday, June 20, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Michigan State Capitol

110 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing

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