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'Pieces of Now' exhibition — featuring art, photos and video from tumultuous 2020 — opens at Greensboro History Museum on Saturday
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'Pieces of Now' exhibition — featuring art, photos and video from tumultuous 2020 — opens at Greensboro History Museum on Saturday

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GREENSBORO — A new exhibition at the Greensboro History Museum focuses on the life-changing upheavals of 2020.

"Pieces of Now: Murals, Masks, Community Stories and Conversations," which opens Saturday, focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over racial inequality and injustice.

It's part of a larger initiative that began in March, "History Happening Now," documenting the city.

For "Pieces of Now," museum Director Carol Ghiorsi Hart chose about 20 murals painted by area artists in June on plywood panels that covered downtown businesses. 

They expressed thoughts and emotions amid nationwide protests over the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

The exhibition includes artifacts, photographs and video stories from participants.

There also are stories of COVID-19 and its impact on some local businesses.

Look for items from the popular Smith Street Diner, closed by the economic storm of the pandemic.

“This is a unique museum exhibition because it is in the moment, incomplete and with minimal interpretation," Hart said in the exhibition announcement. 

"Visitors will largely see and hear the voices of the artists and participants," Hart said. "We are working with members of the community and our visitors, who are the experts of their own lives, to help us make sure we are capturing the current moment from a variety of perspectives.”

The entrance panel to "Pieces of Now" was created by artists Virginia Holmes and Emelio Marz. They were assisted by Savannah Thorne, part of the activist artist coalition Haus of Lacks, who organized grassroots peaceful protests in center city in May and June.

Holmes, Marshall Lakes and Victoria Carlin Milstein are among artists whose murals will be included.

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Lakes’ mural in front of stitch-FX at 500 S. Elm St. connected several stories. It conveyed the protests' overall theme: Black Lives Matter. 

Lakes said at the time that he was inspired by a photo that Kevin Greene took during one of the local demonstrations. It's of a tall, Black man — Michael Harris — holding the hand of a small, white girl as they lead a group of protesters. 

“When I saw this photo, I was, like, this is the thing I want to paint. This is what I want to say,” Lakes said then.

The museum exhibition will include that original photograph and articles of clothing worn by Harris and the little girl.

Milstein painted on the boarded-up front of her VCM Studio at 517 S. Elm St.

She created a mural of a Black child with a flock of birds overhead. It includes a quotation from the Torah, "Justice, justice, thou shalt pursue."

The birds represent the community. "We have to start flying as a flock toward this vision of equality," Milstein said. 

Mothers and their children added their own creativity to four other panels. 

More than a dozen mothers, as well as children, had their pictures taken in front of the mural, Milstein said. 

"The four days l spent in front of my studio talking with African American mothers was life-changing," Milstein said. 

She heard mothers' stories of children being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin.

The museum staff has worked closely with members of the community, particularly artists, in a collaborative effort to collect and document the time for future generations and provide a place for community conversation.

"Pieces of Now" is also a call to action for members of the community to add their voices and fill in the missing pieces of the city's story of the history that is happening now.

The exhibition is designed to inspire people to learn more after leaving the museum. Because of COVID-19, the museum also is offering full-length videos and in-depth information at greensborohistory.org

Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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