We last heard from Artivist Shawn Dunwoody on Inauguration Day, 2017 when he and I met at Sasso Cafe on Park Avenue.
That afternoon, we talked a little politics, a little Trump and a little Obama as Obama was completing his last several hours in office.
Both of us were highly skeptical that Trump will realize his promises to help the working classes. Trump’s gilded cabinet filled with men of his own ilk reveals his true affinities.
As for Obama, Shawn found much admirable in Obama’s presidency and thinks that in the next years Obama may feel less constrained to take stronger positions on race.
At the same time, Shawn’s said his grassroots approach is less about politics and more about face-to-face interactions like going into schools and talking with kids one-on-one.
So when Shawn announced he was running for city council, I — and others — were a little surprised. We hadn’t anticipated Shawn jumping into electoral politics.
The other day, I wondered what had motivated Shawn. Shawn’s answer was simple and admirable. In Obama’s Farewell Address, Obama asked Americans to “show up, dive in, and keep at it.” Obama asked Americans to participate in local school boards and city elections not necessarily just as voters but as candidates.
And Shawn did just that. For most of Shawn’s career, he has worked with small chunks of Rochestarians seeking change. He decided now was the time to take on Rochester as one big chunk. As Shawn said, Obama sparked him to get out with that clipboard and start talking to voters and filling out his ballot signature list.
Most of us would have nodded approvingly at Obama’s speech but not taken it to heart. When you see Shawn out there with his clipboard — whether you vote for him or not — he deserves one big civics thumbs up.
As for the murals, I had called Shawn after seeing one of his murals at the Department of Social Services on Westfall Road.
That was my second recent Dunwoody discovery. After we met at Sasso, by chance, I came across two of Shawn’s works at the Frederick Douglass Community Library.
Then, recently when visiting a friend at the DSS, I saw a mural that looked Dunwoodyesque. And when getting closer, it was.
Shawn explained the mural was one of his first, made in about 2001. The premise was simple. For people waiting in line or sitting in chairs at the DSS, the experience can be almost death-like, trapped in a cognitive trance.
So Shawn asked school children to design and make a mural that would stimulate imagination during those interminable waits. And it works.
DSS worker Mona says children are drawn to the colorful mural. The other day, Mona overheard a mother playing “I Spy” with her daughter in which her daughter had to find something green in her surroundings.
The girl excitedly pointed to the green tree in the background.