There’s no doubt that we are living through a pivotal moment in human history – one that will occupy a prominent place in our memories and in historical record. From images of deserted streets and people in face masks to the historic crowds of the Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, museums all over the world have been working to document this era, including the Greensboro History Museum.
In September, the museum unveiled its Pieces of Now: Murals, Masks, Community Stories and Conversations exhibition as part of a larger initiative that began in March called History Happening Now, which documents Greensboro during the pandemic, protests, and more.
With a focus on the life-changing upheavals that occurred in 2020, the exhibit features stories and artifacts from community members and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and displays nearly 20 pieces of street art created as part of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, along with photos, objects, and video interviews with artists and organizers.
Spartans are represented throughout the exhibit. Sarah Maske and Chris Munster, graduate students in the museum studies program, collected and documented material for the exhibit over the summer. Photography by Lynn Donovan ’75 helps tell the story of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, and two of the featured artists are UNCG students Chimeri Anazia and Phillip Marsh.
Anazia’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” mural originally appeared on the plywood covering the windows of Old Photo Specialists in downtown Greensboro last summer and is now on display in the exhibit. The senior kinesiology student describes seeing her mural in the museum as a surreal and emotional experience, and she knows that others have been moved by her art as well, having heard that young children have been holding their hands up to the painted red hands on the mural that bookend the message “hands up, don’t shoot.”
“That’s the whole point of me painting the mural – for people of all ages to look at it and understand that when someone is unarmed and complying with their hands up, police should not be shooting,” said Anazia. “To see my art make that impact on people and to be a part of Greensboro’s history really means a lot to me.”
Marsh, a senior in the studio art program and a well-known artist and creative consultant in Greensboro, has two pieces of art archived in the exhibit: his “One Love” street mural installation that appeared on Davie Street and a piece he created for a Black-owned business that was defaced with a white supremacist message.
“I am honored to be a part of this exhibit and remarkable documentation of history, and to be a part of this creative moment in Greensboro with other amazing local artists,” said Marsh. “Simultaneously, though, it’s a reminder of the stagnant evolution of our city and the world as it relates to this topic and its need to be addressed again and again.”
What does he want museum go-ers to feel when they visit the exhibition?
“Alive and inspired to create change. How could you not after witnessing these experiences?”
The exhibition will be open through the spring, and you can also experience the exhibit through a virtual tour online, including full-length interviews and in-depth information.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications and courtesy of Greensboro History Museum and Chimeri Anazia