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Friday, June 18, 2021

Vandals remove Black Lives Matter artwork from Central Park Solidarity Space

The community comes together to replace missing artwork

On April 20, activists noticed that the art display in the Central Park Solidarity Space had been removed just before the guilty verdict was announced in Derek Chauvin’s trial. Since then, community members have gathered to replace the missing pieces.  

The Solidarity Space was founded last summer by UC Davis Outcomes Advisor Sule Anibaba and community organizer and artist Kate Mellon-Anibaba after George Floyd’s death. After seeing how her husband Anibaba was profoundly affected by Floyd’s death, Mellon-Anibaba decided to “take up space in Central Park.” 
“I made some portraits of some folks that had been murdered by the police recently and brought some candles and flowers and asked people to come over and hold this vigil for George Floyd,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “I thought maybe a few people would show up, but it turned into a huge thing.”

Mellon-Anibaba described how the Solidarity Space changed and grew as more people started visiting it. 

“It became a meeting space; it became a social justice learning space,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “Some other amazing people in the community took this space and did educational radical forums and brought more art to the space. You could see white families having hard conversations with their kids because they had to, because it was in their face.”

According to Mellon-Anibaba, the Solidarity Space also received a grant from the city and was “reactivated” over the past few weeks as the weather became more suitable for putting out public art. Some speculated that the pieces were removed to protect them from the weather, but Mellon-Anibaba stated that this was untrue. 

“Nothing’s been returned,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “The timing of it was not lost on us. The space was completely erased. Things were cut from the back panel—there were wires holding it up, zip ties—so obviously it was a multiple-person job in the middle of the night so nobody would see it, and they just took everything. They wanted to make a statement, I feel.”

Mellon-Anibaba had archived certain pieces at her house over the winter when the weather wasn’t suitable, but was slowly putting everything back with the return of spring. 

“As things got nicer outside and the anti-Asian hate vigil happened, more people started bringing more art,” Mellon-Anibaba said. “It started getting filled up, and art was showing back up the same way it was showing up last summer. It was like another freedom summer, another chance for folks to come together and talk about the next steps forward. Then right before the results of the trial, everything was erased.”

Despite this setback, it is clear that the Solidarity Space is here to stay, having secured both a nonprofit fiscal sponsor (International House Davis) and grant funds from the City of Davis. 

International House Davis Executive Director Shelly Gilbride further explained that the role of a nonprofit fiscal sponsor is to manage funds granted to the initiative.

“In order to sustain the space, International House started talking about what needed to happen on the back end administratively,” Gilbride said. “We are the nonprofit fiscal sponsor for the space—a fiscal sponsor is an administrative entity that has the fiduciary responsibility for the initiative. We take care of accounting practices and we hold the Solidarity Space bank account so it can have the administrative backing of an existing nonprofit organization.” 

Gilbride described why the long-term existence of the Solidarity Space is important for the community. 

“After the space began, the organizers of the space started thinking about how it can be sustainable for the future and recognized that this isn’t just a one-time need that the Solidarity Space is satisfying, but an ongoing need to support people who may not always feel a sense of belonging in the community,” Gilbride said. 
Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org

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