Artwork honors George Floyd’s life, raises funds for nonprofit

Photo: Rik Sferra © 2020. All r Art piece by Harriet Bart that will be given as a gift to donors.

George Floyd’s tragic death inspires a triumph as In Black Ink,  Accession Projects, and celebrated Minneapolis-based artist Harriet Bart collaborate on “Pleas/Please, 2020.”

“Since George Floyd’s death, the world has responded with outrage towards the systems,” said In Black Ink founding executive director Rehket Si-Asar. “Many have gone further to seek out community organizations to lend support and donate funds.

“Because of the work In Black Ink has been missioned to do, we understood that we can never beg others to support this, but encourage them to see the value of it and then know that it must exist, hence lending their support,” Si-Asar added.

Accordingly, Ascension Projects has published “Pleas/Please, 2020,” a limited-edition artwork by Bart, with 100% of the proceeds to benefit In Black Ink. 

In his last moments of life, Floyd said the word “please” over fifty times as he pleaded for a former Minneapolis police officer to release his knee from his neck so he could breathe. Bart, moved by these pleas, created the artwork as a commemoration of Floyd’s life and as a collection of objects for contemplating the power of language.

 “After the murder of George Floyd,” Bart noted, “it was inspiring to see masses of people, regardless of race, gender or generation come together under the banner of Black Lives Matter to demand change. It feels like we are in the midst of a cultural shift.  

“As a visual artist, I know art can be a force for change.” Bart continued. “I believe in the power of the written word [and] I often look to writers for inspiration. The edition ‘Pleas/Please’ is part of my effort to support In Black Ink.”  

Bart is well-known for creating evocative content via object installations and artists’ books. Her work has been internationally exhibited with public art commissions in the United States, Japan, and Israel. She’s received fellowships from the Bush Foundation and McKnight Foundation and has been honored by the Minnesota State Arts Board. She also won three Minnesota Book Awards.

Accession Projects was established in January as an online launching platform for artists. Aaron Stempien, founder, stated, “In early June 2020, the Twin Cities—and the world—were starting to understand the gravity of George Floyd’s murder. We were also at a very uncertain point of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Against this backdrop I wrote to Harriet Bart, ‘I’ve protested and donated and it still doesn’t feel like an adequate contribution… I am now toying with the idea of publishing an edition of some kind, with proceeds going to charity.’ 

Private tour for In Black Ink staff and advisors by Harriet Bart (center) at the Weisman Museum.
Courtesy of In Black Ink

“In partnering with Harriet, my hope was that together we could make a bigger impact fighting injustice than either of us could on our own and, in the process, make human connections through the transformative power of art,” Stempien said. “Working with Harriet and Ink Black Ink has been a meaningful and poetic undertaking as all collaborators are deeply vested in publishing, equality, literacy, and creative expression.”

Si-Asar recalled, “In meeting Harriet, her work of lending a voice to the voiceless across all communities was very impressive and encouraging to us. The coming together with Aaron from Accession Projects and Harriet was definitely a gift to In Black Ink and to the community.

“We love her representation of the ‘missing narratives’ and understand that she sees not just the problem, but part of the solution, which is to fill those voids of where we have been silenced with stories of who we are and were through her visual art.”

Si-Asar continued, “Although we are battling with the effects and impact of COVID and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd on the lives of people of African descent, other marginalized people, and the world we hope others will see the work of In Black Ink as a vital part of changing the narrative about people of African descent locally and globally.”

This is all well and good but social commitment doesn’t keep the lights on and these days organizations find themselves, more than ever, counting every dollar. “The uncertainty of [our] times,” Si-Asar said, “contributes to our vulnerability as an organization.” 

Accordingly, since October 15, the public has supported the event, pitching in at the GiveMN site: www.givemn.org/story/Fsz8bf. The funding drive ends November 22, but late contributions are always welcome. An edition of Bart’s “Pleas/Please 2020” is a gift with a $100+ donation to In Black Ink (while supplies last).

For more information In Black Ink go to, inblackink.org.

For more on “Pleas/Please 2020” go to www.accessionprojects.com/please-please2

For more on Harriet Bart, go to www.harrietbart.com.

About Dwight Hobbes

Dwight Hobbes is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at dhobbes@spokesman-recorder.com.

View all posts by Dwight Hobbes →

Leave a comment below.