Deliver Black Dreams Combines Art and Civic Engagement
As a member of the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Board of Trustees, Marshall Shorts, who is also the co-founder of Creative Control Fest and Maroon Arts Group, as well as designer and principal at Artfluential, was a part of the conversation on where the Arts Unite Cbus murals commissioned earlier this summer would live as protests continued Downtown.
Then the City of Columbus, particularly Councilmember Shayla Favor, got involved, expressing interest in a Black Lives Matter street mural or a large-scale mural of some kind.
“I was not personally interested in doing a Black Lives Matter mural on the street,” said Shorts, adding that other cities had already beat Columbus to the punch, including Washington D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Plaza and dozens of others thereafter.
“I also thought that whatever we do in terms of public art should be connected to, like, other sectors and other work that’s being done,” he said.
He offered to connect this work with another ongoing project, Deliver Black Dreams, an initiative created out of efforts from regional activists and organizers to empower Black people in getting out to vote, as well as recognize the importance of becoming civically involved.
The combined efforts would serve as a broader conversation around Black Lives Matter as well as centering and serving Black folks, and in turn the local community, even beyond protests and public art.
Some efforts, such as cash awards to Black filmmakers and photographers who documented the protests, were already taking place before the launch of a formal campaign. Other efforts, such as mentorship of young artists in and out of the classroom, are still being developed.
Shorts said the campaign is looking to work with high school students in the Black Lives Matter movement, among other things.
“Teaching youth or working with youth as apprentices and learning how to organize an effort like this,” he said. “If students can see themselves as active citizens and changing their community, and education really being about experience and skill and engagement…then we have a much more well-rounded community.”
However, civic engagement will remain an important part of Deliver Black Dreams. Shorts expresses his hope that the campaign takes difficult conversations, such as defunding police and cynicism around voting, and makes them easier to understand.
“A part of this work is really sort of getting people to see that voting is only one part of getting engaged, building community, and looking out for community,” he said. “Our thing is about imagining a world where Black people can live abundantly. And if Black people are living abundantly, then everybody is living abundantly.”
Outside of educational and civic components, Shorts is also interested in connecting the initiative to the healthcare field, although it’s not clear how exactly yet. He also wants both public and private sectors to be involved in this work, that goes beyond just this year or just murals going up.
“Delivering Black Dreams is a commitment. It’s delivering Black futures,” he said. “The work is always there, it’s a spirit we carry. And it becomes a battle cry, not in replacement of Black Lives Matter…but as an attachment to it to say, ‘Look, Black lives matter, and that’s why we must Deliver Black Dreams.'”