Protest Art Exhibit: When Art Becomes a Voice

Learn more about the art and artists behind the Protest Art Exhibit in Memory of George Floyd

Campus Life > Protest Art Exhibit: When Art Becomes a Voice
Protest Art Exhibit: When Art Becomes a Voice
Participants gather in an online event to speak with the artists behind the Protest Art Exhibit in Kean Human's Right Hallway. Photo of presentation at the online event.
Maria Paz-Lopez, Staff Writer

On Thursday, April 15, Kean Galleries held on an online event on Protest Art Exhibit in Memory of George Floyd as a part of Kean University's Unity Week. Curator and Moderator, Jacquelyn Tuerk-Stonberg Ph.D., welcomes students and staff to join the conversation with artists as they discuss the stories behind their art.

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The event opens up with a word from Kean University President Lamont Repollet Ed.D. He mentions how proud he is of the alumni and students who came together to bring this event to life.

June of last year, a group of artists named JustSumBums organized a peaceful public protest.

JustSomeBums is a collective of creatives, "We like to create any and everything that we can, while also providing a platform for other students to showcase their talents."

They organized this protest in response to the police brutality and George Floyd's murder. With the fear of potential violence sparking at protests and the fact that some individuals aren't good with words, JustSomeBums encouraged people to create art that will shout for them.

Their main goal was to provide a safe and comfortable space for people to express their emotions about all that is going on in the world through art.

A nine minute walkthrough video was presented at the event, exhibiting various pieces that are now presented in Kean's Gallery located in the Human Rights Hallway. In this video, Dr. Tuerk-Stonberg walks down the gallery, piece by piece, talking about the various artworks and briefly speaks of their meaning.

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Four of these artists came to discuss their artwork and give participants a closer look at their artwork's intentions and inspirations.

Cheyonne Thompson opens up about his fears when he was creating his protest piece. "What is at the end of the stage when I get there?" He says, speaking about his graduation around the time all of these protests and shootings were taking place.

Marielena Guthrie captures the faces of many in her protest art. She was inspired by the news of people joining the Black Lives Matter protests, only all around the country but all around the world.

Guthrie kept the faces of the people in her painting ambiguous in order for viewers to put themselves in their place. She says, "We want a new place for everyone to be unified."

Mary Clare King had wanted to create an interactive piece but it became difficult due to Covid-19. However, her piece was still as effective in getting the message across. Filling the Black Lives Matter fist with the names of those lost at the hands of racism, King focuses on the theme of inclusion. She wants the names to be said and known.

Tino Cook explains how he completely stopped what he was working on to create the nine protest pieces showcased in the exhibit. He opens up about his experiences with racism and that of the people close to him.

All of their work can be viewed at Kean's Human Rights Institute in person through May 7.

Dr. Ruth Feldstein, author and associate producer of "How It Feels to be Free" a PBS American Masters Series, was invited as a guest speaker to give some words to the artists and participants. Dr. Feldstein congratulates the artists and thanks them for their hard work and contributions. She was amazed by the power the artists showcased through their artwork.

Short on time, the event came to a close with a section for questions and discussion.

Inspired students are encouraged to submit their artwork and photographs to Dr. Jacqueline Tuerk-Stonberg through her email at

For students or staff interested in attending a similar event, they can check in on Kean Galleries on their Cougar Link.

To learn more about the artwork or gallery, one can visit the Instagram pages for Kean's Human Rights @kean_humanrights or Kean Galleries @keangalleries.

about the author

Maria Paz-Lopez, Staff Writer

Maria Paz-Lopez is an English Education K-12 major. She joined The Cougar's Byte in Spring 2021. Some of her interests include film, music and art. After her time at Kean, she hopes to become a teacher and go on to teach English in a different country.