EUGENE, Ore. -- Hundreds of people gathered outside of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon campus on Thursday to support and celebrate the 21 artists selected for the Black Lives Matter Artist Grant program.
The artists were hand-picked by museum staff, and the Black Cultural Center received a $2,500 grant and a spot in the exhibit. The goal of the exhibit was to highlight those who "use their voices, experiences, and artistic expression to reflect on social justice efforts in response to systemic racism."
Jordan Schnitzer said he saw this as an opportunity to learn.
"Artists of color are helping us understand the themes that have been plaguing our country for years," Schnitzer said.
According to John Weber, the executive director of the museum, the project started in response to the unjust killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, in addtion to countless other Black lives lost.
Several of the artists KEZI 9 News spoke with were shaken up by those incidents.
"I was angry last summer, I was sad, I was surprised. I was a whole bunch of emotions," artist Jasmine Jackson said.
She said her work is for people who look like her and share some of the same experiences. To her, this opportunity was a chance to release and heal, not to educate others, particularly those who won't put the adequate effort in.
"The importance I think is for Black folks to find a sense of release if you're a creator," Jackson said.
Aaron Thompson, who also had a piece in the exhibit, said one of his goals is starting those tough conversations about inequality and social injustice.
"It's a very sticky topic, but it certainly is a way to bring justice to the community for our Black brothers and sisters," Thompson said.
The exhibit has been open since July 3 and will remain open until Nov. 21.