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Creating art to fuel social justice movements

Born in Puerto Rico, Ricardo Levins Morales lived in and visited a number of cities before settling in the Twin Cities in his 20s. He says the Twin Cities provided access to numerous communities in a way that rural and larger cities didn’t.

Morales runs the Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio, where he creates art about social justice and collective and individual healing.

“Earlier in my life, it might have been a way that I as an introvert could connect with people and community without putting myself out there too much,” he reflected.

Nature and humans can be seen intertwined in many of Morales's pieces. He incorporates quotes from famous activists throughout history. Community plays a noticeable role in Morales’s art. He says his art has become integrated into his organizing and how he tells stories to overcome a feeling of powerlessness.

“Trauma is what holds oppression in place, and it's really based on lies,” Morales explained. “What it does is it imposes lies that we're not worthy, that we will never be able to solve our problems, that the world is inevitably going to keep us powerless.”

Along with Morales, the studio employs six other people. He says the team makes decisions collectively.

“I really like the collective process,” he said. “That makes me feel like we're living as much as we can a story of liberation, and not just talking about it.”

Morales hopes to remove the systems that are destroying the earth and dividing communities. He says there are solutions to the problems we face, but the way the operating system works makes them not viable.

“In order to think about how to bring justice for people you have to think much bigger in the long term,” reflected Morales. “How do we tell this story in a way that includes everybody and that will make it easier to win things in five years, 10 years - instead of harder?”

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