Fifteen youth from Harlem worked with Groundswell artists Chris Beck and Clare Herron to create a monumental mural inspired by the work of legendary artist and former Black Panther Emory Douglas. The mural project What We Want, What We Believe is in conjunction with the major retrospective Emory Douglas: Black Panther currently on view at the New Museum
on the Bowery through October 18, 2009.
Emory Douglas was the Revolutionary Artist of the Black Panther Party and later became its Minister of Culture. From the 1960s until the party disbanded in 1980 he created the design and layout, and oversaw production for the partys newspaper, the Black Panther. Douglas created a vocabulary of images that exemplify how art can encourage political consciousness and function within an activist context. In partnership with New Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem, Groundswell youth and artists brought to life an original design based on Douglass work and utilizing his distinctive graphic style. The mural, entitled What We Want, What We Believe, is the first large scale public artwork celebrating the work of Emory Douglas in New York City.
In preparation for the mural project, students attended workshops at the New Museum and Studio Museum to learn about the social and political history that gave rise to the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the larger Black Power Movement. As part of the design research process, the students canvassed the neighborhood and interviewed locals to discuss the issues that the communities felt were most relevant, the most common topics being education, health care, and unity. Working with researched ideas and concerns, the students, Emory Douglas, and mural artists Chris Beck and Clare Herron choose to remix images from three of Douglass earlier images from the Black Panther newspaper, with two of his more recent images, and also integrating newly created designs meant to illustrate the communitys core concerns. The resulting mural What We Want, What We Believe is a reflection of past, present, and future.