Grant winners share inspiration behind BLM art

Artists push for continued change through pieces displayed at Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum



Alison Saar walks patrons of the museum through her exhibit “Mirror, Mirror.”


The Black Lives Matter Artist Grant allows artists to create pieces reflecting the structural changes in our society enacted by the BLM movement.  

These works were put on display at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the Pullman campus. The artists awarded the Black Lives Matter Artist Grant were given $2,500 each to create art concerning the Black Lives Matter movement and institutionalized racism in our country. 

During the Press Hour on Oct, 5, collector Jordan Schnitzer said he felt frustrated because he not only felt the movement was long overdue, but because he wanted a medium to advocate for change.

The power behind these pieces can be felt when one walks around the room. Every artist had a personal reason for entering her work.

Artist Jasmine Iona Brown said her son inspired her to create her pieces because society makes assumptions about him based on his appearance. 

“I still fear every time he walks out the door,” Brown said. “Why can’t he be perceived as a young man instead of a threat?” 

Artist Bob Lloyd said he will continue to promote modifications to our society by giving more power to Black individuals in the judicial, medical and educational systems. 

“I’m going to push for that change,” Lloyd said. 

Artist Lisa Myers Bulmash said the time for change is now since people of color have been oppressed for hundreds of years.

“What needs to be more gradual?” Myers Bulmash said. 

She said people can’t just decide to do a “one-off” when it comes to supporting the Black community. People need to make gestures, such as a one-time donation or giving a part of your life to truly support the community.

In the U.S., if you don’t have a certain skin color, all bets are off, said artist Rene Westbrook. She didn’t have a way to channel her voice until she discovered how to speak through her art. 

“The currency of skin is a right of passage,” Westbrook said.

After the grant winners spoke, sculpturist and artist Alison Saar guided the audience through her pieces. She said she felt sculptures have an amazing presence. 

“You can look right in their eyes, toe to toe with them,” Saar said. 

Saar said she uses many recycled materials in her work, such as frying pans. One of her pieces, titled “Mulatta Seeking Inner Negress,” shows a woman gazing into a frying pan and a reflection looking back. Saar said she uses mirrors to show a piece of her own identity. 

“It is a reflection of my ancestry,” Saar said. “I identify as Black but appear white.”

Visit the gallery at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. You can see the BLM Grant works from today until Dec. 18, 2021. Alison Saar’s exhibit “Mirror, mirror,” will be on display until March 12, 2022. Hopefully, this will inspire you to promote change. Not only do these artists want you to hear their message, but be a supporter of it.