Art Force 5 projects at NFL stadiums highlight Martin Luther King Day exhibition in Rochester
Alfred University’s Art Force 5, a program that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, visited five National Football League stadiums this season, where the group engaged with fans to create mosaic artwork in honor of women’s empowerment icons associated with the NFL cities.
ALFRED, NY – Alfred University’s Art Force 5, a program that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, visited five National Football League stadiums this season, where the group engaged with fans to create mosaic artwork in honor of women’s empowerment icons associated with the NFL cities.
On Martin Luther King Day – Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 – the mosaics will be displayed as part of a one-day exhibition at Strong National Museum of Play as part of the museum’s Day of Compassion honoring King’s legacy as a civil rights leader.
Founded in 2006 at Alfred University, the Art Force 5 has received national recognition for their unique diversity training and their interactive community-based art, and has a proven record of engaging communities through creativity. Throughout 2019, a rotating team of students from the Art Force 5 infused themselves into the football stadium tailgate culture to discuss issues not often found alongside beer and barbecue. Student groups engaged fans in painting tiles to create mosaics of women’s rights icons. The project is meant to recognize leaders in the women’s rights movement ahead of next year’s 100th anniversary celebration of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Art Force 5 kicked off its NFL stadium project at Buffalo Bills Training Camp in July. The group engaged fans in painting tiles to create a mosaic of women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. An image of the mosaic was embossed on the front a t-shirt of the blue and red Bills colors, with Anthony’s name above it, and the number 19 on the back.
Similar projects followed throughout the fall, at the Pittsburgh Steelers stadium (honoring Nellie Bly), at the Cleveland Browns stadium (Dorothy Dandridge), at the Baltimore Ravens stadium (Harriet Tubman); and at the New York Jets stadium (Shirley Chisholm).
A special Coretta Scott King mosaic (in Atlanta Falcons colors) will be painted on Jan. 20 at the Strong Museum. The Art Force 5 team has also designed a tribute to Florida’s iconic Mary McLeod Bethune, which it hopes can be painted as part of the Super Bowl festivities in Miami in early February.
T-shirts created using the design of the mosaics were given away to participant at each project venue. The jerseys, which will also be part of the Jan. 20 exhibit at the Strong Museum, are designed by Alfred University alumna Jillian Mullen ’17 (B.F.A.) and produced by Logo Print Services of Hornell, NY.
Despite numerous requests, the jerseys are not for sale by the Art Force 5 as they strive to “build process before profit.”
“Wearing the jerseys becomes a true symbol of support. Our society is totally accustomed to men and women wearing sports jerseys with another man’s names on them,” said Dan Napolitano, chief diversity officer at Alfred University and founder of Art Force 5. Program. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for our team to wear a jersey showing they’re a true fan of women and equality.”
While the projects held outside the five stadiums are not authorized by the NFL, the Art Force 5 has been fortunate to partner with the NFL Network during the past year. In January 2019, the members of Art Force 5 traveled to Atlanta prior to the Super Bowl and painted a tribute to the city’s first African-American police force of 1948. The program featured participation by NFL players Kenyon Drake and Dalvin Tomlinson, while being filmed for an NFL360 segment directed by Alfred University alumnus Trent Cooper ’92.
The Strong National Museum of Play is exhibiting the Art Force 5 work from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 20. Regular admission costs apply. Those admitted can paint a tile for the Coretta Scott King mosaic, free of charge. A private preview of the exhibition and press conference will take place at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19.