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Activism Through Art

 

Silent Fox and Olivia House standing in front of a 3 panel photo banner of an art exhibition they worked on with the U of M.
Silent Fox and Olivia House at an art exhibition they worked on with University of Minnesota Graduate students.
A billboard with the text that reads "we're in a 400-year long war with no end in sight." A prominent black fist is featured in the middle with the word "FIST" running vertically down the forearm. It is accompanied by smaller multi-colored fists and George Floyd's name is shown on a sign one of the hands is holding. In the background are green hills that feature black trees and red and blackened flames. A blue banner runs across the bottom saying Black Artist Collective @13.4 Collective and it also says paid for by Augsburg University
Billboard created by Silent Fox and Olivia House with copywriter Jalen Cannon.

About a year ago, Olivia House ’20 and Silent Fox ’18 were approached by their art advisor at the time, Christopher Houltberg. He wanted to know if Silent and Olivia would be interested in doing an art project through a grant provided by the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation. For them, it was an easy thing to say yes to.

“Right away, we knew we wanted it [the art] to have more than one output,” said Olivia.

Silent majored in Studio Arts and Graphic Design and Olivia majored in Graphic Design. Their time at Augsburg gave them the opportunity to meet various studio artists, explore their interests, and take a hold of their agency as artists. With graduation only shortly behind them, they are already establishing their artistic careers and sharing their experience about a recent project they completed in partnership with Augsburg.

Both Augsburg and the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation supported Silent and Olivia’s idea to expand their work beyond the singular campaign. Part of the grant went to the billboard art and the other half went to starting a Black Arts Collective, 13.4 Collective. As the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder was approaching, they wanted to create a piece that commemorated that historic moment.

“My goal was to vocalize the black experience in America and show authenticity to our lives,” added Silent.

Translating a powerful message into art may not be innately ingrained in all artists, but for Silent and Olivia, activism is at the core of their work.

“For me, activism is naturally intertwined into my art. It’s part of me, my history, and my community. I can’t imagine it not being part of my work,” reflected Silent.

“I take a lot of inspiration from Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party’s designer,” Olivia added. “He knew how to create messages succinctly and that were accessible to people by using a lot of imagery and minimal words.”

As they created the ad campaign, they aimed to keep the art somewhat ambiguous and make others think about the deeper meaning. The billboards went up for the Juneteenth holiday and will be taken down in mid-July. Check out the locations their art is displayed.

In addition to their billboard campaign, Olivia and Silent shared their excitement about the future of the 13.4 Collective and other work they completed together. They recently wrapped up an outdoor exhibition they worked on with some graduate students at the University of Minnesota that touched on the history of mutual aid in the Twin Cities (top picture). Silent, Olivia, and Jalen Cannon (copywriter for the billboard), serve as contributors to the 13.4 Collective. They hope to continue expanding their reach with each project and sharing the messages behind the stories of the black community.