Home Historical art Haitian-American artist brings vision, gift to state’s COVID campaign

Haitian-American artist brings vision, gift to state’s COVID campaign


Bo Téfu | California Black Media

Photo courtesy Serge Gay Jr

(CBM) – California’s “Your Actions Save Lives” art campaign recently unveiled two “Safety First” murals in San Francisco. The artwork, created by Grammy-nominated visual artist Serge Gay Jr, was commissioned to encourage people to continue taking safety precautions against COVID-19 even though the state reopened last month, according to the governor’s office.

One is located in the Castro, the city’s famous historic ‘gay quarter’, as some locals affectionately call it, and the other in the Tenderloin, near the city center – two well-known neighborhoods anchored in the famous history of the city of Golden Gate in terms of leftist politics. the organization and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ +) people.

The Tenderloin mural, which he dedicates to the city’s transgender community, was inspired by the idea of ​​”breaking free because during the pandemic we were all at home and kind of stuck there,” said declared Gay.

The mural, he explains, emphasizes the feeling of being free, “once you are vaccinated you have that experience again, that freedom to walk around town,” Gay said. .

Gay’s second work is located at 2390 Market Street in the Castro.

Gay says he chose the Castro District strategically because the area has a history that is committed to the safety and protection of the LGBTQ + community.

The state says the “Your Actions Save Lives” campaign is providing Californians with information on what they can do to help stem the spread of COVID-19. To spread the word, he’s partnered with the Sierra Health Foundation Center and 20 local artists across the state to reach out to communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The project engages Latino, Black / African American, Asian / Pacific Islander, Native American / Native and LGBTQ artists and communities,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The art initiative, organizers say, is designed to raise awareness of the critical actions Californians have taken to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask, washing hands, physical distancing and vaccination.

“These accomplished artists tap into their culture and creativity to share empowering messages with communities that have been hit hard by COVID-19. Art has incredible power and we believe these works will spark important conversations, connections and inspiration statewide, ”said Chet P. Hewitt, President and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation Center. .

According to Gay, he celebrates the Tenderloin for its inclusion of blacks and browns. The message behind the mural emphasizes freedom of movement following the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages the public to get vaccinated, said the artist whose collaboration with director Matt Stawski earned him a nomination at the Grammy for “Best Short Video”.

“I really wanted to show the visibility of our trends as well,” Gay said.

The work that Gay produced for the statewide art project captures the diversity of Blacks and Browns in San Francisco’s LBGTQ + community. Gay says that because of his own personal experiences, he realizes that it is important to represent blacks and browns in his work. He remembers feeling unwanted and invisible when he first left Miami in San Francisco.

“Being part of the LGBT community is just wanting to have the opportunity to show diversity in everything,” Gay said.

As a third generation artist, Gay wants black people to recognize themselves in his works. When he sees black-centric artwork, Gay says, he often thinks to himself, “It’s me, it resonates with me when I see another artist painting something that I can relate to.”

The handsome artist attributes his artistic style (some critics have described it as graphic realism) – as well as his personal flair – to his Haitian culture and heritage as well as his upbringing in Miami, which taught him life lessons. on the importance of community. As a Haitian-American artist, Gay wants his work to indicate that darkness is not a monolith. Gay pays homage to his Haitian roots through his artwork that celebrates various black communities in the Bay Area – African Americans as well as African and Caribbean immigrants, he explains.

“I feel like everything is like a celebration of our culture, our identity and our roots. So I tend to put a lot to the side in my work, bringing in the new immigrant story, almost like a foreign perspective, ”Gay said.

Although there is misinformation and misinformation, Gay wants his work to reassure people about the safety of the vaccine. Racial disparities in the healthcare system have had a devastating impact on black communities across the country. Gay pointed out that the number of lives lost due to

COVID-19 in black and brown communities indicates people need to get vaccinated.

Award-winning artist Gay says the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted various black communities to “come together to fight for a cause.”

He said it was important that black and brown communities “remember what we have learned from it and understand how we are moving forward and how we will face it next time.”

Through his works, Gay takes responsibility for “educating people to look back on what happened in the past and learn from the past,” he said.