IN PICS | US artists create sculptures from plywood used during BLM protests

Artist Tanda Francis poses with her sculpture 'Rockit Black' in Queensbridge Park, Queens borough of New York.
Artist Tanda Francis poses with her sculpture 'Rockit Black' in Queensbridge Park, Queens borough of New York.
Image: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

For New York artist Tanda Francis, the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020 were a historic event.

To honour those who participated and create a permanent tribute to the racial justice movement, Francis took plywood used to board up storefronts across the city last year and turned it into a sculpture called “RockIt Black.”

“To transform this plywood that was on the streets during the Black Lives Matter actual uprising is... amazing,” Francis told Reuters. “In my work, I actually use the colour black and actually try to elevate it, kind of contrast to how it's been sort of stigmatised in our culture.”

Francis was one of five artists chosen to participate in the The Plywood Protection Project organised by worthless studios, a New York not-for-profit.

A sculpture by artist Tanda Francis called "Rockit Black" in Queensbridge Park.
A sculpture by artist Tanda Francis called "Rockit Black" in Queensbridge Park.
Image: Jeenah Moon/Reuters
A close-up of Tanda Francis' artwork.
A close-up of Tanda Francis' artwork.
Image: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

“New York City was covered in this plywood during Covid-19 shutdowns and, you know, the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests,” said Neil Hamamoto, founder of worthless studios, as he stood next to the “Be Heard” sculpture by Behin Ha Design Studio in Thomas Paine Park in Manhattan. “To me, it felt important to recycle the material because of its power and rhetoric.”

The five sculptures appear across the city and will remain on display until Nov. 1.

The summer of 2020 saw the biggest protests for racial justice and civil rights in a generation, triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.

Skylar Barnes, who works and lives in the Bronx near the “In Honour of Black Lives Matter” sculpture, said the artwork reminds her of the reasons why people went out to the streets.

“I see that the sculptures are speaking out that we need some more justice and that laws need to be fixed. So there could be equality for everyone,” said Barnes.

Reuters