A Minnesota organization is archiving plywood art created after the murder of George Floyd

Work continues to preserve pieces of art made after 2020 unrest

Work continues to preserve pieces of art made after 2020 unrest

Call it a labor of love, in a northeast Minneapolis warehouse.  

“I feel very attached, like connected to these pieces personally,” says Amira McLendon, a University of Minnesota art student. “I didn’t make any of them. But knowing they were from my community is important to me.”

McLendon is an intern with the group ‘Memorialize the Movement.’

This weekend, the organization, founded by Leesa Kelly, is busily archiving and organizing about 1,000 pieces of plywood art, created in the days and weeks following the murder of George Floyd.  

“This work is very special to me. I’m very passionate about what I do,” Kelly declares. “Our goal is to collect, preserve, activate, and make accessible plywood murals from the uprising that were created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020.”

For three years, Kelly has been carefully collecting the murals, painted on plywood originally used to protect storefronts and houses.

“I was very passionate when I saw the murals turn up and that’s what led me to collect them as they began to come down,” she explains.

The panels are decorated with images of George Floyd and others.

Many feature themes of social justice and hope.

“I felt very prideful of the stand that my city was taking in the wake of everything that was happening,” McLendon says. “Knowing that there’s people in my community using their voices throughout and being artistic with it.”  

Starting Monday, the group plans on moving the panels into a new home in the southside, along Snelling Avenue.  

“We need room to properly archive the murals and photograph them,” Kelly says. “And this [current location] doesn’t allow that. It’s got low light. It’s not climate controlled.”

Kelly says the new, larger location will be a transitional space.

They’ll hold the collected artworks there for up to five years — enough time to try to locate the various artists and learn the backstory of each panel.

Kelly says the new space will help restoration efforts to begin in earnest.

“Our conservation efforts look like patching up splintered ends, or like restoring a mural that has gotten damage from mold or water,” she notes.

The volunteers who met Saturday say Kelly has one trait ideal to the task ahead: a near-photographic memory.  

“She just has this catalog in her head,” smiles Beth Kellar-Long, from St. Paul. “She looks at one of these and says this is from CVS.”

And the panels?

“There’s like humor in them. There’s wit. There’s everything, you know a whole range,” Kellar-Long says. “There’s beauty and sadness, there’s everything.”

Kelly has given each piece a numbered, lettered code so she can keep track of its whereabouts.

She hopes to eventually raise enough funds for a permanent location, where people can view the artworks all year around.

“Each one has its own story, and its own history,” Kelly says. “They’ve all kind of moved me in different ways and stuck with me over the years.”

You can find out more about Memorialize the Movement here.