‘Art and activism kind of go hand in hand’: Black History Month, a conversation with Ginger Ewing

SPOKANE, Wash. — As Black History Month comes to an end, we’re highlighting how Black History is immortalized not only in our history books, but in our communities through art.

Ginger Ewing is the co-founder and Executive Director of Terrain, a non-profit arts organization in Spokane.

Not only does Terrain provide a space for artists in Spokane and their work, but the non-profit plays a role in using art for activism.

From 4 News Now’s Destiny Richards:

Ginger and I spoke about the Black Lives Matter mural in Downtown Spokane on West Main Ave. and how she felt torn between being an arts administrator and a Black woman from Cheney who has always called Spokane home.

Destiny: We’re obviously here because it is Black History Month and I assume you’re biracial?

Ginger: Yes.

Destiny: Everyone is different, the Black experience is different for everyone so that’s why I’ve been talking to different people in Spokane and I want to know what your experience has been like growing up in a place where, honestly, there aren’t a lot of people who look like us?

Ginger: Yeah, it’s really interesting that you that you mentioned “biracial” because for a large part of my life, I did identify as biracial. I have a White mother and a Black father.

And I started to recognize, especially in a town like Spokane, or in Cheney, that people didn’t see me as biracial. They just saw me as Black, which is totally okay with me.

So about 10 years ago, I stopped saying, “I’m biracial” and I just started saying I was Black.

I don’t think that a ton of people could see the difference. Like, you could look at me and be like, “oh, yeah, she’s biracial”, but not a ton of other people.

So I really feel like from that perspective and the way that people react to you and the way that people treat you that I have very much experienced kind of what it’s like to be Black in Spokane.

Destiny: For people who may not know what Terrain is, how would you describe Terrain?

Ginger: Terrain is a non-profit arts organization. We started about 14 years ago, and really, we do kind of a multitude of things. We define art really broadly. But we touch upon visual art and performance art and music. We do a lot in terms of our advocacy work.

A big goal of ours is to make art as accessible as possible. So whether you have an art history degree or you’re just, you know, someone who’s curious and dabbling in the arts, you are welcome to participate and engage with our organization.

Part of what I’ve tried to do in Terrain’s work is to create spaces and places where folks feel — folks of all different backgrounds — feel empowered, feel safe, feel like their voices are being amplified.

Art and activism kind of go hand in hand and the more that Terrain grows, the more that I realized that we have a platform to be able to kind of move the needle, move the thinking, move the narrative, in Spokane.

Black Lives Matter mural in Summer 2020

Ginger: We [Terrain] facilitated the Black lives matter mural in Downtown Spokane and while kind of overwhelmingly the response that we got from Spokanites was really, really positive, you know, there were people driving by saying “White power”, there were armed militia in our streets as we were doing that. I got contacted about the safety of myself and the artists.

That summer time, in those summer months, I was just like, “Oh, Terrain’s work stands for itself, this is not my problem to solve.”

But again, I started to realize that we have this platform and not it was no longer good enough just to allow our work to stand for itself.

We needed to use our platform, and to use art and artists voices and the love of art to lead the revolution.

Black representation in the arts

Destiny: Yeah, and part of the reason I wanted to talk to you in particular is because I believe that art in many forms — whether it’s painted art, music, performance — I think that plays a role, especially in Black History Month, in looking at expression of joy, the expression of different things that aren’t just slavery and pain and trauma and things like that.

So I want to know your thoughts on the importance of Black representation in the arts showing a side we don’t normally see.

Ginger: Yes, I love that question because, and actually, through conversations with Black artists in Spokane, going back to the summer of 2020, was really where I found a lot of hope as well.

Because, yes, we need to acknowledge and recognize and continue to work through, you know, the historic and present day harms to Black people.

What we also need to celebrate is Black love and Black joy and Black relationships and Black contributions to our community and Black brilliance and I do think that art and creativity creates an entry point for that.

A place for meditation and a place for, whether it’s individual awareness or awakening, or even just contemplation or it’s something that we can do together.

Nothing beats the experience, that intangible feeling of experiencing art, whether it’s a picture on the wall or if it’s a performance or it’s a song, it’s a poem.

The human connection that it brings, the human empathy it brings, the compassion, the humanity in all of us and being able to see people witness, again, Black joy and Black love and Black resiliency and Black brilliance through art is unlike anything that I can explain.

In the gallery below, you’ll find the works of Black local artists like Carl Richardson, Shantell Jackson, Tracy Poindexter-Canton, and Darrien Mack.

Black History Month may be coming to and end, but all the stories and conversations we’ve covered this February, see kxly.com/blackhistorymonth.

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