The Minneapolis Museum of Art Got a Cold Call From Philando Castile’s Mom. Now He’s the Subject of Its Newest Show

Philando Castile's mother suggested the show after receiving numerous gifts from artists moved by his death.

A portrait of Philando Castile on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in “Art and Healing: In the Moment,” an exhibition of work inspired by his death by local artists. Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

In July 2016, a police officer shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile, a local cafeteria worker, during a traffic stop outside St. Paul, Minnesota. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the immediate aftermath of his death, which became national news and a rallying cry for protesters decrying the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. Almost two years later, the nearby Minneapolis Institute of Art is putting on an exhibition inspired by the fatal shooting.

“It’s painful and difficult, I think,” Kaywin Feldman, the museum’s director and president, told a local FOX affiliate. “By putting this issue on the walls of this museum,” she added, “we are saying this is an important issue and we all need to be talking about it and thinking about it.”

For Valerie Castile, the victim’s mother, art became an unexpected coping mechanism after artists began sending her works inspired by the life and death of her son. The art, she said, made her feel less alone and helped her work through her grief.

Xiaolu Wang, <em>I.Am.Mural.</em> (video still). Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Xiaolu Wang, I.Am.Mural. (video still). Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

“It brought me such a calmness,” Castile said at a press conference for the show, as reported by a local CBS affiliate. Explaining why she wanted to share the artwork inspired by her son’s death, she said, “You need to let the community see this because it makes you feel better, it will make them feel better as well.”

The exhibition, which showcases local artists including Sarah White, Angie Renee, Leon Wang, and Xiaolu Wang, came about after she reached out to the Minneapolis institution. Castille suggested that the community might also benefit from the display of these works.

The cold call to the museum’s general line was forwarded to Nicole Soukup, the assistant curator of contemporary art—a department founded just 10 years ago. Soukup and two colleagues visited Valerie Castile’s home and couldn’t believe how much art there was. “It was a moment of awe,” she told the Star Tribune. “To see that generosity from our community and that support. It was overwhelming and beautiful, and yet heartbreaking.”

Leslie Barlow, Philando Castile and Angie Renee, Why. Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Leslie Barlow, Philando Castile and Angie Renee, Why. Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The exhibition, titled “Art and Healing: In the Moment,” features 15 paintings, sculptures, posters, videos, and textile works. It was put together with input from a community advisory group, and features a Quiet Space for reflection should visitors need time in silence to process what they have seen.

“Art is an expression of our shared humanity, and we must protect, nurture, and celebrate the work of artists, even when what they show us is painful,” Feldman told the Minnpost.

The museum has also planned related programming, including a June 22 talk by Bryan Stevenson, director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which founded the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.

“Art and Healing: In the Moment” is on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Cargill Gallery, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, June 17–July 29, 2018.

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