August 18, 2020

Carrie Mae Weems

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

Carrie Mae Weems, RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! initiaitve, 2020. SCAD Atlanta public artwork.

RESIST COVID/TAKE 6!. Public artwork in jewel boxes, SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah.

Carrie Mae Weems, RESIST COVID/TAKE 6!, 2020. Bus shelter installation, Atlanta.

Public art initiative addresses the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Latino and Native communities

“COVID-19 is an ecological health crisis of epic proportion and we’ve all been impacted,” says artist and activist Carrie Mae Weems. “We have indisputable evidence that people of color have been disproportionately impacted. The death tolls in these communities are staggering. This fact affords the nation an unprecedented opportunity to address the impact of social and economic inequality in real-time.”

Addressing the impact of this inequality is the aim of Weems’ new public art initiative, RESIST COVID/TAKE 6!. The artist-driven project emphasizes the precaution for people to maintain a six-foot distance from one another, and speaks to the urgency of Weems’ call to action. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has partnered with Weems to launch the initiative in Atlanta and Savannah, home to SCAD’s two Georgia campuses.

“As a new public-facing art initiative, not only does RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! raise critical health awareness, but it shines a light on how this pandemic has disproportionately affected Black, Latino and Native communities”, says SCAD President Paula Wallace. “We are pleased to be partnering with Carrie Mae Weems, longtime friend of SCAD, to bring this important work to Atlanta and Savannah.”

At the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, the museum’s street-facing jewel boxes display poweful, large-scale photographs accompanied by the initiative’s messages including “Don’t Worry, We’ll Hold Hands Again.” RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! is also on view at public locations in and around SCAD Atlanta. Commanding billboards and bus shelters bring its message to the attention of residents in one of the country’s highly impacted cities. Flyers, “church-style” fans, and bags will be distributed through Meals on Wheels Atlanta and various local organizations in Savannah. The printed pieces will be directing audiences to local resources including COVID-19 testing sites.

The works showcase the realities of the international health crisis while providing notes of gratitude to workers within the health and service industries and making direct appeals for people to take preventive safety measures.

SCAD has over a decade-long friendship with Weems. The artist has collaborated with the university on numerous exhibitions and initiatives to showcase her dynamic work. Weems has been a distinguished visiting professor at SCAD Atlanta and worked with students on a thought-provoking film, Constructing History: A Requiem to Mark the Moment, for the National Black Arts Festival in 2008. In 2016, Weems was the SCAD deFINE ART honoree and keynote speaker. That same year she had an accompanying exhibition titled “Carrie Mae Weems: Considered” at SCAD MOA in the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies.

Most recently, Weems spoke with SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace for her "On Creativity" podcast where the artist discussed recent and upcoming creative work, the importance of the RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! initiative, and her legacy in the industry.

Weems began working on RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! this spring while artist-in-residence at Syracuse University, as the extent of the COVID-19 crisis became apparent. The idea came from a conversation of Weems and her close friend Pierre Loving, lamenting what they saw unfolding.

Weems hopes the initiative will be impactful in both its immediate messaging and in prompting larger dialogue about the pandemic and the long-term state of those most severely affected. This initiative is also being activated in cities nationwide including New York, Detroit, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia in support by producing collaborators, THE OFFICE performing arts + film.

“The arts allow us to get closest to our humanity,” says Weems. “One of the important things is to understand the circumstances under which we live. This means unmasking inequity, because then you begin to see the power structures that are under it to keep you fighting one another as opposed to really looking at really the source of the problems. Denial does not solve a problem.”

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