Art Exhibition Honoring Breonna Taylor Is 'Filled With Her Spirit' Just over a year after police officers shot and killed Taylor in her home, the Speed Art Museum has opened a show in her memory. "To see it all come together is just a blessing," says Taylor's mother.

'Filled With Her Spirit,' A Louisville Art Exhibition Honors Breonna Taylor

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

An art show honoring Breonna Taylor is on view in Louisville starting this week. It's called Promise, Witness, Remembrance. As Stephanie Wolf of member station WFPL reports, Taylor's family played a key role in its development.

STEPHANIE WOLF, BYLINE: Tamika Palmer says the exhibition dedicated to her daughter is everything she hoped it would be.

TAMIKA PALMER: A peaceful place just to be able to come to this place and just be filled with her spirit.

WOLF: It's been nearly 13 months since Louisville Metro Police officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her home. And Palmer says she never imagined Taylor would be memorialized this way.

PALMER: I was in awe - just the thought that people who don't even know her take time out of their day to draw something of her or even just as simple as her name. And to see it all come together is just a blessing.

WOLF: Palmer had a hand in developing the show at Louisville's Speed Art Museum. So did other family members, local artists and mental health professionals. The Speed Museum's Toya Northington wanted community members engaged with issues like police brutality and racism to have a voice. But she knew it might be tough to recruit them.

TOYA NORTHINGTON: When I asked people to come to the table in a time where we are greatly divided as a community, I'm asking them to come on board and to support this institution that has not been known for their support for Black community and marginalized communities.

WOLF: Even so, Northington was able to build a planning committee and a team of researchers. They didn't always agree on everything, but there was consensus that this show should primarily feature Black artists.

NORTHINGTON: That was the No. 1 requirement.

WOLF: Guest curator Allison Glenn worked with these committees, as well as national advisers. They encouraged her to arrange the show in a specific part of the museum.

ALLISON GLENN: We're sitting in the doorways of the original building that was built in 1927 to house the Speed Art Museum's collection. Typically, this is where you would see the Dutch and Flemish collection.

WOLF: The space normally holds centuries-old works by artists such as Rembrandt. Every artist in this collection was white.

GLENN: To have a contemporary exhibition by majority Black artists in this space acts as a decolonization of these galleries.

WOLF: The show is laid out in three sections to reflect the words in the title - Promise, Witness, Remembrance. In the first, artists use recognizable American symbols to examine promises made by this nation, like a wall installation of shoelaces spelling out, we the people.

GLENN: Just wanted to start a conversation around the founding of these organizing documents that constitute our country and perhaps help us understand how we got there.

WOLF: Glenn is pointing toward a well-known portrait of Breonna Taylor. It's the centerpiece of the show, featuring Taylor in a flowy aquamarine dress wearing an engagement ring that her boyfriend never got to give her. It can be seen from every room. Amy Sherald painted it for a Vanity Fair cover last year, and this is the first time it's on public view.

In the second section, Witness, artists reflect on contemporary history. Louisville-born artist Noel W. Anderson incorporates images of Black women ripped from old magazines. He erases parts of the picture, leaving just the hint of an eye or a smile.

NOEL W ANDERSON: They require the audience to witness the erasure of this Black woman or these Black women in these images that I have, right? But it also then requires the viewer to also project the promise back onto those empty spaces.

WOLF: This room also displays photographs from the racial justice protest in Louisville. Tamika Palmer contributed work to the final section, Remembrance. It's a timeline of her daughter's life.

PALMER: I don't know who else could have told the story. I didn't know how exactly it would even play out. But I just knew that there was a lot of stuff that people still didn't know about her. She died so violently, but to know that she was never a violent person.

WOLF: Palmer says Taylor was easygoing her whole life. They called her Easy Breezy.

PALMER: You want people to not forget, to not move on, because the real goal hasn't been served yet.

WOLF: And that goal, Palmer says, is justice. For NPR News, I'm Stephanie Wolf in Louisville.

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