Following the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, many feared that protests would turn into riots. Some people stoked those fears even further. Certainly, people were angry, but many channeled their rage and grief into positive, creative, artistic expression.
One example of this can be found at the Art Works Studio School, located in Mount Rainier, Maryland. Barbara Johnson, an artist, art teacher and the founder and executive director of Arts Works Studio School, explained to me in an e-mail that as soon as the verdict was announced, she and the program coordinator started texting each other: “We were both so upset. And we knew right away that we had to do something through Art Works to support the community. I said that we needed to do something. She suggested ‘painting it out’ and I knew that it should be silent painting.”
So, on Monday evening, around 30 people, ranging in age from 20 to 60, went to Art Works to express their pain through painting and drawing.
Johnson recalls: “I greeted people Monday evening and assured them that they didn’t have to ‘know how to paint’ and that they could paint in silence in our studio or sit in discussion in our gallery. Every single person came into the studio and painted. At times different people would stop painting and walk into the gallery to cry.”
For many, the experience was cathartic: “So many people said, ‘I feel better’,” recalls Johnson.