“I understand that saying ‘I don’t see color’ is no longer enough now. Honor their skin color,” Lewis says. “Love them.
“I cannot thank my sister enough for encouraging me to hold a mirror up to myself to discover what my part is in dismantling racism. What can I do? What is my story? What are the things I need to own up to?” she says.
Lewis, who has a degree in art therapy, picked up her paintbrushes to create an empowering love seat. In one week, after the release of the video of George Floyd’s death, in the shadows of the twin specters of the pandemic and racial injustice, Lewis finished the piece. She lettered her intentions on its seat before she painted it, a practice she follows in each of her artworks. She wrote, “Make the space for hard conversations. Listen to my story. Pay attention. See me.”
It wasn’t easy or convenient for Lewis to shoehorn a major art project into her regimen of stay-at-home school for her son Grant, 7, and her daughter Charlie Bea, 10, or to disrupt her work as an online art instructor and artist. It was necessary though, she says.
“We are extremely open with our children. We told them the story about George Floyd. We talked about protests. They both cried,” she says. She and her wife, Beth Gruver, talked to the children about white privilege in language they could understand. “We broke it down to real life situations.
“The hard conversations have to start when they’re young, so they are empowered to ask the hard questions when they are older,” Lewis says.
Creating the artwork took a toll on Lewis. “Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spirituality this was a hard piece to do. When I finished it, I wept,” Lewis says. She sent it out into the world in early June to Espresso Yourself. The neighborhood cafe and coffee shop sells and displays local artists’ works, including Lewis’ paintings, collages and cards. For owners Jules Karagiannis and her sister Tracy Calabro, hosting the love seat was a singular honor.