Monuments to Social Justice in Downcity

Street artists turn riot damage on Westminster into meaningful public art

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On June 2, a video popped up on Instagram, documenting the creation of a mural; the work depicted a fist, raised aloft by a handful of people. The canvas was actually a sheet of plywood, covering a shop window that had been damaged by a mob the night before. The shop was Civil, a skateboard outfitter based on Westminster Street.

“I personally can’t take a lot of the credit for the mural,” says Guido Silvestri, co-owner of Civil. Silvestri says the idea came from his friends Will Cornwall and Justin Healey, who knew a local street artist. The property group that owned the building okayed the plan, and soon the bland panel was spray-painted into a symbol of solidarity. Their friend Nick Rix filmed and edited the Instagram video.

Civil was just one Westminster storefront to turn temporary boards into public art. All up and down Westminster, sheets of wood had been installed to either cover up damage or deter future destruction of property. Artists AGonza and Lizzy Sour used the rough surfaces to paint sprawling portraits, transforming several Downcity blocks into an open-air gallery of social consciousness. One aerosol mural, created by Kendel Joseph on the front of arts nexus AS220, depicted George Floyd himself, flanked by Black Lives Matter posters. A week later, after a succession of peaceful protests, workers started to dismantle the panels.

Says Silvestri: “Pretty awesome to see something so positive happen from beginning to end, literally within hours.” You can now view the plywood art pieces on display at 1 Eddy Street.