After conquering the streets, protest art is now aiming for the digital realm


A woman walks past a boarded up storefront with a George Floyd mural on in New York last month. Photo: AFP

The role of art in confronting political and social issues has been brought to the forefront in recent months, as artists have created multiple murals denouncing the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Poignant portraits of Floyd have sprung up in cities around the world, including New York, Toronto, Manchester, Nairobi, and Athens, as well as his hometown of Houston and the war-torn city of Binnish, Syria.

Although these protest-inspired artworks have quickly become memorial sites for local communities, their fate is still uncertain due to various interpretations of copyright and intellectual property laws.

While various grassroot initiatives have been launched to preserve these murals and plywood paintings at a local level, the Plywood Project has announced plans to create an open-source database of all protest-inspired and street artworks that memorialise Floyd.

The public art initiative will collaborate with the American copyright, licensing, and monitoring organisation, Artists Rights Society, which will be responsible for licensing all works in the Plywood Project's collection.

Although details about the database are still scarce, organisers of the Plywood Project confirmed that "this database will be open-source and collaborative: anyone will be able to add to it and help in its attribution."

Additionally, the Plywood Project will commission protest-inspired artworks by artists from historically marginalised groups throughout New York City and its metropolitan area.

Among them is a new "For Gwen" mural by Brooklyn-based artist Sophia Dawson, which was unveiled earlier this July in New York City.

MacArthur Award-winning artist Carrie Mae Weems will also contribute to the public art initiative with new wheat pasted posters, as part of her ongoing "Resist Covid Take 6" campaign.

"Even as stores take down the plywood, this humble material remains the metaphoric tinder for the Plywood Project, which seeks to both document and preserve today's burgeoning street art, as well as commission new work - whether on literal plywood or other surfaces. In doing so, the Plywood Project brings support to the communities most deeply impacted by today's calamities, provides youth opportunities for creative mentorships, and offers the public art that can be safely experienced outdoors," organisers of the Plywood Project wrote in a statement. - AFP

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