Not many organizations present such an immediately recognizable motif as the Umbrella Movement. The object is a metaphor and sign for those seeking protection and cover from a brutal reality and has been adopted and adapted for use in protests throughout the years, including those marching across Dallas streets.
For the artists and creatives of Ash Studios, the civic unrest ignited by the death of George Floyd has inspired the use of a brand new canvas — the canopy of bright yellow umbrellas.
Initially brought into focus from Hong Kong political protests in 2014, the Umbrella Movement has found foothold in activism across the entire world. The concept behind the movement was not lost on Teresa Nguyen.
“I’m new to this; I’m not a protestor, but things have changed,” Nguyen says. “I haven’t slept very well, with all that's been happening.”
Nguyen had to expend that unease somewhere, so she made a call to her colleague Darryl Ratcliff.
Ratcliff, a local Dallas artist and poet who runs Ash Studio, had a perfect outlet. He reached out to In Defense of Black Lives, an organization whose mission is to defund the Dallas Police Department and to instead invest into the larger Dallas community.
A collection of local artists joined the pair's cause, and the group decided on summoning the Umbrella Movement. In Defense of Black Lives had another idea to contribute.
“They asked us if we could do all the names of people who were killed by the Dallas Police Department,” Ratcliff says.
A few cans of yellow and black paint, a list of names and 44 umbrellas later, and the group had amassed a flock of parasols ready to be handed to eager hands at Thursday's protest.
The umbrellas do more than just showcase all the names of those killed by DPD, they provide a practical purpose at a protest. With social distancing still a concern, they reinforce a sense of one’s own space, among other things.
“The umbrellas are their way of protesting as a statement, but also as protection from possible tear gas and rubber bullets,” Nguyen says.
With the summer coming in full force, Ratcliff also sees another useful aspect to the art.
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“We are very excited to have an object that is aesthetically impactful, but also very practical for tear gas, rubber bullets ... but even just as a sunshade,” he says.
The artists hope they signify more than just their usefulness.
“It symbolizes hope; it's not about us. The whole point is for the message and the movement to be amplified,” Nguyen says of the collection. “We hope that from this first effort it gets brought to the next protest, and increases the number of umbrellas. We will likely continue to make more. If people want umbrellas we are going to send them their way.”