Ever since Cadex Herrera picked up a pencil, he has been creating art: from doodling to creating murals to bring awareness to social justice issues in his community.
Herrera is one of the lead artists who created the George Floyd Mural at the George Floyd Memorial, located on East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, created on May 28. This mural has gained immense popularity globally and is arguably one of the most recognized images recently relating to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Herrera was one of three artists who painted the mural. The other artists are Minneapolis-based Greta McLain and Xena Goldman.
Before painting the mural, Herrera had been speaking up for Black Lives Matter and protesting.
He had been attending protests for two days when Goldman contacted him and asked if he wanted to paint a mural with her; he accepted. “She asked me to design it, as she already had an idea for the portrait. I came up with the concept,” Herrera said.
A huge amount of thought went into each detail in this mural, and Herrera said his focus was the mural’s symbolism. He chose to use bright colors to bring a hopeful and positive light to the lives taken by law enforcement officers.
Floyd is surrounded by a sunflower, which Herrera said stands for longevity and loyalty. The names in the sunflower represent the seeds that weren’t able to grow. He included them so the community would also remember the other victims of police brutality around America.
Herrera created the mural to create a community. Art is a tool to help a community heal and foster a sense of belonging at uncertain times, he said.
Herrera uses art to overcome hard times throughout his life and wants the mural to also be a focal point for healing.
“This mural gave the community a place to reflect, a place to stop and a place to think,” he said.
Not only did the finished mural help build a community, it was literally painted by community members.
“People were walking on the street saying, ‘What can I do to help?’ And we said, ‘Join in. Grab a brush and go ahead and put your mark on there so we’re all involved,’” Herrera said.
Herrera said he was “shocked at how fast it became part of the symbol of the movement.”
To Herrera, this was an “act of rebellion,” which allows one to express anger and grief. For him, art is a visual language more powerful and more immediate than words.
The goal of the George Floyd mural is to give the community a safe space to heal and be together. Herrera’s specialty of creating art around social justice and bringing an awareness to the injustices we see today has impacted people globally.
“When talking about social statements and political statements, especially in murals and art, the job of that piece is to move the viewer to have them emotionally react to it,” Herrera said. “And then also through that reaction, create change.”