Imagine a space where communities of color come together and express themselves through art. What issues will appear on canvas? What stories will be brought to life? What would that look like? On Thursday, July 21st the Social Justice Art Gallery Opening and art lending library was hosted by 21 Progress.
21 Progress is a community organization that provides programs that empower leaders among the people of Washington and advances bold ideas for economic and social justice. As a testament to their mission, the idea of the Social Justice Art Gallery was put in motion when former intern, Francesca Gatuz, applied for a grant with the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture.
The concept behind the gallery is to focus on artists of color and to make art accessible to communities of color through the formation of an art lending library.
“Art creates community building by recognizing other forms of expression. This way we can feel empowered.” said Losa Berhane, 21 Progress BOLD summer intern who organized the opening.
Spaces such as the 21 Progress Social Justice Art Gallery is important for artists and communities of color. There are not many spaces within the city or nationally, that is accessible for artist of color to display their art or for communities of color to have their experiences reflected through art.
However, the formation of an art lending library is not new to Seattle or the nation. There are several places within the nation like Minneapolis that has an art lending library open to the public. In 2013, the Art Lending Library (ALL) opened in the Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle. But the Social Justice Art Gallery is different by fostering community and empowerment for people of color.
Fenny Perez, who attended the art gallery, studied art history in college and works at a local art college. Perez said many of the pieces at the gallery left an impression.
“I feel that I can come to a space like this and I don’t have to explain myself,” Perez said.
The piece that Perez felt most drawn to is Ruben Reye’s El Sueno Americano. Inspired by his parents and childhood, Reyes’s four panel life-size portraits of migrant field workers is intended to highlight the marginalization of migrant workers. Reyes piece was awarded first place in the gallery’s collection and will be available for the lending library.
The public will be able to fill out check request slips for the Reyes and other pieces selected for the art lending library starting July 29.
“I hope that we can continue on this work and that next year we can host another gallery opening,” said Berhane.
The gallery will be open from Monday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until July 28. 21 Progress is located at 409 Maynard Ave. S, Ste 202, Seattle, Washington 98104. Afterwards, selected pieces will be available as part of 21 Progress’ art library.