The Ruby Chacón Social Justice Arts Award is given annually to individuals who are advancing justice and equity in our communities through the arts. This year's award goes to the SLC Mural Makers, the anonymous artist collective whose portraits of individuals killed by police can be found on the corner of 800 S and 300 W in Salt Lake City. They, in turn, used the prize money to support the work of local mother and organizer Rae Duckworth, surviving family member of one of those honored in the murals.
Throughout Utah history, communities as a whole, and the individuals within them, have systematically experienced police violence and brutality. These assaults on our families and friends have caused much heartbreak and anger, as we laid our people to rest much too soon.
Not long after the news of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department shocked the country, the SLC Mural Makers honored the life of Floyd by painting a beautiful mural on the exterior walls of the Fleet Building, on the corner of 800 South and 300 West. Soon thereafter, many other portraits began to appear next to that of George Floyd: these portraits honor, celebrate, and uplift the lives of just a few of the countless victims of police brutality here in Utah, and across the country. This collection of murals has become a place where our communities come together to mourn, celebrate, and reflect.
Through the art of the SLC Mural Makers, our community can honor our fallen while bringing awareness to the violence that our communities have experienced through systemic racism carried out at the hands of Utah’s police forces. The collection of portraits on the walls of the Fleet Building is now an iconic and essential part of Salt Lake City’s west side, and community members are fighting to protect it. MICA is proud to honor the SLC Mural Makers with the 2020 Ruby Chacón Social Justice Arts award because these works of art serve as a reminder that, without true justice, there can be no peace.
The information in the paragraphs above was compiled from news articles. We know that we cannot do justice to people's full lives and deaths in a few sentences, and please let us know if there are any errors. For more information on many of the people honored in the murals, we recommend you start with this article from the Salt Lake Tribune.
This project, which we have dubbed the “Protest Portraits”, grew out of anger, out of frustration over the continuous and historic slaying of community members at the hands of police. The police swear to protect and serve us, but instead, community members, neighbors, friends and loved ones keep on dying. Some of the folks in our group have lost loved ones due to police brutality. The death of George Floyd made clear to us that as survivors of victims of police brutality and concerned citizens of this state, we could no longer sit down and shut up when community members are under attack.
SLC Mural Makers formed out of the absolute necessity to address and FACE the epidemic of police brutality in Utah. We have come together to reveal the ways in which this affects our immediate community. We came together to educate our city about the people we have lost. We came together to make it impossible to look away from the faces of those who have been taken from us. Every brushstroke is dedicated to them, their families, and our community. Each brushstroke is for all of us.
Being a part of this project has changed each one of these Mural Makers forever. It has been incredibly powerful to watch this block transform into a beautiful expression of our collective grief and genuine support of one another. The involvement and cooperation within the community surrounding this project is what made this into a stunning example of what mutual aid can look like in Salt Lake City. We are in complete awe of the reception of this project. This effort would mean nothing if not for the community connection that has manifested on this block.
We graciously accept the Ruby Chacón Social Justice Arts Award. We acknowledge that it’s kind of a weird thing to accept an award for painting the faces of people who have been murdered by police. Because of the nature of this work, and in the spirit of the community we’ve seen grow through this project, we insist that the prize money be donated to someone we feel has positively impacted this community and this movement.
We have selected Rae Duckworth, of Representation Matters Utah, as the recipient of the prize money associated with this award. Rae is the survivor of a victim of police brutality featured on the murals, Bobby Duckworth. She is a local organizer and mother. She distributes desperately needed supplies to unsheltered citizens. She spent all summer at the murals, led protests, and was an overall huge support. She has helped us tremendously throughout this project. We want to uplift Rae in her efforts to support fellow victims of police brutality and support of the local unsheltered community.
As the SLC Mural Makers, we hope that the Protest Portraits continue to impact and affect change, and we are so grateful to organizations like Metizo Institute of Culture and Arts for their continuous work to offer opportunities to better our community. Thank you.