The cultivation of art is a way to hold a meaningful conversation without even speaking. For Black History Month, the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation’s Beach Institute and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System called on students and teachers to create artworks that reflect the importance of Black and Brown lives, influences, and culture in the community throughout history, which are now presented in the new #BLM exhibit. The #BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement began as a human rights crusade to address violence and systemic racism faced by Black people in America. To contribute to the #BLM exhibit, students and teachers from across the district submitted portraits of their smiling Black and Brown faces and eclectic fashion senses, interracial hands grasping each other to represent unity, collages of contemporary and historical Black and Brown figures, and many additional paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other 3D art pieces. The Beach Institute hosts exhibitions highlighting numerous topics year-round, but for Black History Month the curators decided to cultivate an exhibit that they have never done before, inspired by the 2020 police-brutality murders of 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25th and the 26-year-old Breonna Taylor on March 13. “We were planning the exhibit in our main gallery for Black History Month during the height of the protests and unrest surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” said exhibit curator Jenny McCord. The struggle of schools and students figuring out how to approach education, especially arts education, amid a suddenly virtual world during the pandemic outbreak of 2020 also played a role in the curation of the #BLM exhibit, according to McCord. “We wanted to give young people and teachers, who have suffered greatly due to our current reality, space to freely express themselves,” said McCord. A few pieces of the many works that were submitted came from various Garden City Elementary School students and their teacher, Daria Collins, who was enthusiastic to have her students participate in the exhibit. Collins said that she thought taking part in the exhibit created a great connection for teaching diversity through art. “As an African-American art teacher, it is important to me to teach my students to create art that reflects their reality and to feel proud about it,” said Collins. “I focus on teaching my students that through the creation of art, they have a voice. I love observing what they choose their narratives to be.” Collins also submitted a painting with its own message. “I painted a young innocent girl who is listening to the affirmations from a hummingbird, also known as a doctor bird in West Indian cultures. Written throughout the infinity symbol is a conversation where the hummingbird is telling the young girl that she is worthy to be loved, she is strong, she is beautiful and that her life matters,” said Collins. “Through my personal art submission, HUMAN, I wanted to celebrate African-American people by showing my audience that we are just as curious, worthy, and as beautiful as anyone who is not African American.” Other schools whose students contributed to the exhibit are Otis J. Brock III Elementary School, Sol C. Johnson High School, Windsor Forest Elementary School, the Savannah-Chatham E-Learning Academy, Southwest Elementary School, STEM Academy at Bartlett Middle School, New Hampstead High School, Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School, Charles Ellis K-8, and May Howard Elementary School. The #BLM exhibit is currently on view at the Beach Institute (502 E. Harris St., Savannah) through April 30, open Tuesday through Saturday from noon-5 p.m. Visit beachinstitute.org/exhibits for more information.