Addressing Race Through Public Art

Picture This:

It’s First Thursday in Pioneer Square, Seattle Art Fair begins tonight, there’s a game at the stadium, and the weather is absolutely amazing. Something awesome is going to happen tonight.

In Occidental Park, there’s music playing, vendors set up through the park, and there are large crowds walking around taking in the sights when a woman wearing a black calmly strolls down the brick pavement and stops in the center of the park in front of the galleries while holding a violin. She stands still doing nothing as everyone continues to walk around her. Wait, I recognize her. That’s Katy Balatero. She an incredible violinist and plays for the Seattle Rock Orchestra. What the hell is she doing?

Behind Katy, at the corner of Occidental in Jackson a crowd forms. Weird, they’re all wearing the same colors, Black, White, Yellow, Red, and Brown.The group crosses the street and breaks into five single file lines then begin walking towards Katy. Everyone gets behind Katy and stands still. The group stands for so long that people begin to take notice, begin laughing, and start taking pictures, “do something.”

Katy calmly lifts her violin and bow armed to tame the cosmos and begins playing a Bach mashup that’s so incredibly executed that anyone within an earshot of the amp halts whatever they’re doing seduced by the music. As Katy plays the group behind her stands stoic, united as one collective. All ages, races, political affiliations, sexual orientations, and genders make up this collective and at a time in the world where people are constantly spoon feed ideas about roles and class, they stand united, Brown, Red, Yellow, White, and Black.

After a few minutes, Katy finishes playing and rest her bow at her side. Applause erupts as everyone continues to stand still. Soon after, the group turns and walks the way from which they came and Katy makes her exit. Life resumes.

We did no ask for permission to perform, tell anyone to stop what they were doing, or to even to watch.

Special thanks: Aaron Anderson, Aramis Hamer , Blu, Kamari, Weijing Zhou, Kent, Andrew Schirmer, Sophie, Grazyna Rae Utterback, Arianna Riley, Okesha Brandon, Terry Jackson, Neveah Scott, Madison Benning, Carie Esquenazi, and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture

Want to hear about the six-month process that it took to create this and keep it under wraps?

barryjohnson.co

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