Social justice group preparing for Austin’s first ‘Black Art Matters’ show

Aimee Everett works in her studio in Austin on Jan. 8. 2018, creating art for a "Black Arts Matters" show (KXAN Photo)
Aimee Everett works in her studio in Austin on Jan. 8. 2018, creating art for a "Black Arts Matters" show (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local group that focuses on combating inequality and advocating for social justice wants to make sure minority artists are in the spotlight in Austin.

The Austin Justice Coalition is looking for artists of color to exhibit work at its inaugural Black Art Matters show next month. The goal, the group says, is to give those artists a platform to highlight criminal and social justice, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Interested artists can fill out the artist call form here until Jan. 12, and vendors can submit their applications here.

A mural at 12th and Chicon streets features prominent local and national musical and artistic icons (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
A mural at 12th and Chicon streets features prominent local and national musical and artistic icons (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

“I hope that people see that we have a lot to say,” Aimee Everett said. “We have things to say that maybe correlates with what they have to say or how they feel.”

Everett, a painter who works out of her south Austin apartment, will be one of the artists featured at the show. Friday she was adding another layer to a piece she’s been working on for about a month already, one that she says she’ll be taking to the art show. “Most of my paintings are about communicating things that I can’t say.”

One of them she addresses in a work titled “Learning to Tame My Demons,” a series of intersecting lines on a circular wooden panel covered in layers of various red hues.

“I think a lot of times, growing up as a black woman, you are told what you are,” she explained. “Like, you’re told this is how black women are and so it’s wrestling with, well, that’s not who I am.” Everett will also take that piece to the show.

She’s one of about 10 artists the AJC has lined up already to show their work, according to Stephanie Warren, a local photographer and the AJC’s creative director. Some of her own work features candid shots of activists at rallies around the city, but it won’t be on display at the show. Her effort, though, will be.

Providing this platform is an important role for a group that often shines a light on the negatives within the city, she said. “We also do these great things where we support communities in other ways, where we can also help you fulfill maybe some dream that you had.”

The group is hosting the show at Rio Rita in east Austin — right next to the wall at 12th and Chicon streets that boasted a mural of African-American cultural icons until a new business owner painted over it earlier this year.

It was an insult to many in the historically black neighborhood, where minority families are increasingly being priced out as generational family homes are torn down and replaced by sprawling new houses and condos.

Now a new mural, designed and painted by Chris Rogers, graces the wall, featuring even more than the first. Warren said there needs to be more spaces for artists of color to express themselves. “That’s not to say it doesn’t exist,” she said. “I just feel like it’s harder to find here in Austin” than in other major cities that have already gone through the growing pains Austin is currently experiencing.

“They may not have the accessibility,” Warren said of the artists, “but they’re out there trying to make it.”

That’s the bigger message Everett wants to communicate through the art show. “I feel like everyone can appreciate art,” she said. “And once we can get on a level of the same appreciation, maybe we can start to have conversations of, how does this community affect this community and how can we better each other?”

She wants people to pull back the layers of the exhibition to see all it has to offer, starting with the primer that we all have a lot in common — we’re all just trying to make it.

“So if you begin there,” Everett said, “then maybe you can understand the bigger injustices.”

A mural at 12th and Chicon streets features prominent local and national musical and artistic icons (KXAN Photo/Calily Bien)
A mural at 12th and Chicon streets features prominent local and national musical and artistic icons (KXAN Photo/Calily Bien)

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