George Floyd was killed by police just over a week ago, and his death has become a global flashpoint, igniting protests against police violence. It has also inspired artists around the world to transform public spaces into monuments of remembrance and solidarity.
In Minneapolis, local artists painted a mural on the wall of Cup Foods convenience store at 38th and Chicago—the intersection where Floyd died at the hands of police after being arrested and pinned to the ground.
In Houston, artists Donkeeboy and Donkeemom painted a mural of Floyd with wings and halo. Meanwhile, in Germany, the artist eme_freethinker painted a mural of Floyd on the Berlin Wall, along with the hashtags #georgefloyd #icantbreathe #sayhisname.
In Syria, Aziz Asmar and Anis Hamdoun painted Floyd’s likeness on a freestanding wall surrounded by rubble in Idlib Province. In a photo, the artists stand on either side of the mural, flashing peace signs. Idlib Province is one of the few remaining rebel strongholds in the country.
Irish artist Emmalene Blake’s mural of George Floyd rendered his portrait in grayscale, with red letters reading, “HIS NAME WAS GEORGE FLOYD.” “Teach kids about racism & privilege,” Blake tweeted. “Teach them to recognise their privilege- white, class, straight, cis, male privilege & teach them to be allies.”
There’s a long tradition of murals as an expression of political activism. Graffiti artists covered the west side of the Berlin Wall (sometimes referred to as a “canvas of concrete”) soon after it was constructed. Murals that speak to a history of political division have become a common sighting in Northern Ireland and cover barriers referred to as “peace walls.” Mexican artist Diego Rivera painted murals throughout the early and mid-20th century that depict industrialism, class stratification, and the Mexican Revolution. The Organization of Black American Culture, a collective of black writers, artists, and thinkers, painted a community mural called the “Wall of Respect” on the South Side of Chicago in 1967. It depicted more than 50 major black figures of the civil rights movement and was itself a collective act of asserting identity and claiming space.
Back in Minneapolis over the past week, artists Xena Goldman, Greta McLain, and Cadex Herrera painted a depiction of George Floyd on the wall of Cup Foods against a blue background, his head framed by a large sunflower with his name on either side in all caps, and the words “I can breathe now” at its base. There are at least two other murals of Floyd in Minneapolis: one near the intersection where he was killed and one outside Leviticus Tattoo on nearby Lake Street. Kurt Melancon, the owner of the tattoo shop, installed the portrait on his storefront, which had been boarded up amid protests.
“We just wanted to pay tribute and honor George Floyd,” Herrera told Minneapolis Fox 9. “It was a terrible thing that happened to him and it’s devastating and I hope that at least some peace can come from this to reflect on a life of a human being that was unnecessarily taken away.”