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Artist Talk: Revisiting “The Public Square” Amid A Global Pandemic and Civil Unrest

What does a “public space” become when all of the public is isolated at home?

How can abstract art address the idea of "liberty" and the Black Lives Matter movement? Why is it important to prioritize art-making as a way to alleviate anxiety and loneliness? How can art-making be considered a service to others, and if you’re not an artist, what acts of service can you do for your community instead? 
 
These are just a few of the ideas discussed by Guest Curator Vera Grant and artist Cullen Washington, Jr., whose solo exhibition, The Public Square, opened at UMMA in January. Washington’s soaring, vibrant paintings are part of his series Agoras, named for the public squares in early Greece that functioned as community spaces. In an ironic twist, the public’s access to Washington’s "public square" was cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic closed UMMA and most other museums across the globe. 
 
However, Washington has managed to keep his spirits up and his paintbrush busy in the last couple months. “The physical space of the public square may be closed,” he says, “but now it’s happening in the streets.” Watch the full conversation here, or click a link below to jump directly to a discussion topic:
 

Explore images from "The Public Square"

A woman stands looking at a gray, yellow, and pink painting.