Fighting against racism: The story behind George Floyd’s mural in Minneapolis

This mural of George Floyd was created in the corner where he was arrested and then killed in 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. Three apprentices of UnidosUS Affiliate CLUES participated in its painting.  Photo from CLUES.

At UnidosUS we stand in solidarity with those who are expressing their outrage and righteously calling for justice after the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. And we call on all communities to lift up our voices to create a more inclusive, safe, and just nation.

Even in these difficult times there are reasons for hope, from the awakening interest of people all over the United States and around the world to learn more about why this keeps happening and ways to help, to communities coming together to show support, strength, and healing. That is precisely what a group of students from the Latino Muralism Apprenticeship at UnidosUS Affiliate Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) in Minneapolis have done, creating the now-iconic George Floyd’s image honoring him at 38th and Chicago Avenue.

By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

When Cadex Herrera, Pablo Helm-Hernandez, Xena Goldman, and more artists learned about the killing of George Floyd, they knew they needed to do something to address the injustice and tragedy of his death.

Together with Greta McLain, Maria Javier, Rachel Breen, and Niko Alexander, their action was translated into art, because, as Herrera expressed in an interview with CNN, “[a]rt is therapy. Art can say things you cannot express with words. It brings the community together to reflect, to grieve, for strength, and for support.”

The initiative from these three apprentices at CLUES and the other artists has turned into the mural honoring Mr. Floyd at 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the spot where he was arrested and killed. This piece of art has now become an icon to the movement, where people have come together to mourn and protest. They started the painting three days after his death, and finished it within 12 hours.

“My emotions were so raw,” Herrera expressed. “The hurt is so deep and the wound won’t heal because it opens up every time a person of color is killed unjustly and it doesn’t stop,” he told CNN.

Aaron Johnson-Ortiz, who leads the Latino Muralism Apprenticeship at CLUES, shared in an email to his colleagues the independent initiative of these three students from their program, and how the artists used those emotions of hurt to draw a mural that “has been an inspiration for the thousands of people who have come to pray and gather at that corner.”

The mural has been widely shared in U.S. media (People Magazine, Fox 9Minnesota DailyMplsStPaul, CNN, etc.) and all over the world (El Comercio in Peru, Informador in Mexico, etc). “I am incredibly proud that three of our apprentices sprung into action last week,” Johnson-Ortiz continues in his email, thanking the students “for their inspirational work, and for using their skills as artists to help the community heal, and also to advocate for the basic life and dignity of all people in our community.”

The Latino Muralism Apprenticeship students have been working for a week in the creating of these murals. Photo by Aaron Johnson-Ortiz.


Apart from the creation of George Floyd mural, last weekend, artists from the Latino Muralism Apprenticeship started another project “to honor George Floyd’s memory, show that Latinos are in solidarity with the African American community, and begin the process of healing and rebuilding our cultural corridor on Lake Street,” writes Johnson-Ortiz in an email to UnidosUS.

The murals being created are not only representing in their imagery, but showing in their actions, the union of the Latino community standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Black community in this painful time to celebrate the life of Mr. Floyd and speak out against racism. “The Latino community is embracing and sharing the pain of the African American community, understanding the root cause and joining the fight against racism,” says Claudia Valentino, one of the muralists.

Tomorrow, Friday, June 5, they will start hanging these murals in the CLUES building exterior wall, which they expect to finish throughout the weekend. Jessica Pleguezuelos, Marketing and Communications Manager at CLUES, will bring us an update once the project is completed. Cadex Herrera, who is also participating in this other project, says: “We’re painting these murals to stand up as the Latino community in solidarity with Black residents, and fighting alongside them against racism.”

These murals will be displayed at the CLUES building in Minneapolis. Photo by Aaron Johnson-Ortiz.

The other artists of the CLUES murals are Xena Goldman, Zamara Cuyun, Margaret Ogas, Pablo Helm-Hernandez, and many others, with the support and guidance of CLUES Arts and Culture staff Aaron Johnson-Ortiz and Raquel Díaz Goutierez.


The Latino Muralism Apprenticeship at CLUES started last September, with the goal of teaching emerging artists about muralism and public art. “We focus on the Latino origins of muralism,” Johnson-Ortiz tells us, who teaches this program in a bilingual Spanish-English format. “The great majority, but not all, of our apprentices are Latino immigrants or native-born Latinos.”

Through this apprenticeship, the organization is teaching contemporary techniques in mural-creation, as well as the historical and sociopolitical contexts in which muralism has been developed, looking at the early 20th-century Mexican muralism, the Chicano muralism of the 1960s and 70s, and other related art movements. The project also focuses on indoor and outdoor best practices, as well as logistical skills like project management and fundraising.

Ruby Azurdia-Lee, Executive Director of CLUES and UnidosUS Board Member, shared over email how these and other Latino artists are “volunteering their time when they already are suffering from the economic devastation our country is suffering.”

Two of the artists from the Latino Muralism Apprenticeship being interviewed about the project. Photo by Aaron Johnson-Ortiz.

Azurdia-Lee expressed with pride her unconditional support to her team, which is working toward their goals of advancing social justice through Latino arts and culture, and the community is showing up to live up to these ideals.

The creation of these murals are uniting a community in pain, which is using public art to express their feelings, to start the healing process and to raise their voices. If you are in Minneapolis, make sure you visit CLUES at 720 E Lake Street and visit these pieces of art and healing.

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