In the late spring of 2020, Emile Charles, a first-year English and pre-nutrition major at UNC, approached Public Art Coordinator for the Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture department Steve Wright, and shared his concerns regarding the lack of cultural representation and public awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement in Chapel Hill.
After witnessing the racial injustices that caused George Floyd’s death, Charles wanted the Town of Chapel Hill to better solidify its representation of Black community members and the cultures that make up the Town.
Since then, the Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture department has been working alongside community members on a public art project to bring light to and educate the community on widespread discrimination.
The art project, "New Voices", which is a series of banners outside of Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill, was designed by Victoria Primicias, an artist originally from Manila, Philippines, who is now based in Wake Forest.
“I just want the community to feel welcomed into this space – that they are represented and that they feel enlivened by the artwork,” Primicias said.
Incorporating inclusive art
In the new banner installation, Primicias included the Statue of Liberty to represent civil justice, a Black Lives Matter fist to represent racial justice, a scale to represent women’s rights and a rainbow to represent the LGBTQ+ community. She also included the North Carolina state flower — the dogwood — and a Chapel Hill postmark to commemorate the space, which set her apart from other submissions, Charles said.
“I think there's one side of engagement, which is political and very policy-focused, but there's another side that's culture focused,” Charles said. “So this was trying to pull on those culture strings: the art that we have in our town represents who we are, that represents our town culture.”