On Saturday May 14th, the Richard Beavers Gallery will present The Freedom Riders 1961, celebrating the 55th Anniversary of an economic movement. The exhibition was carefully curated by Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator Charlotta Janssen.
The dynamic offering showcases the many faces of the Freedom Riders, both men and women, who often found themselves arrested after standing up for their civil rights. In an effort to commemorate and memorialize their bravery, the exhibition offers an in-depth examination of the closely documented mugshots that were taken once the riders were arrested.
In an exclusive interview with the Brooklyn Reader before her opening night, Charlotta Janssen offered insight into her thought process.
“When I discovered the mugshots I was fascinated immediately. I researched the individual riders and I became curious about why I hadn’t already learned about them. I thought back to school and the hollow civil rights education that I received and I knew that it was important to draw attention to the reality of this situation.”
For most people, the Freedom Riders are remembered as civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and the following years to challenge the non-enforcement of United States Supreme Court decisions. These brave individuals put their freedom and their lives on the line in order to stand against injustice. From segregated restaurants, bathrooms and water fountains, these riders were met with hostility and extremely dangerous situations as they attempted to partake in the everyday activities that other citizens were enjoying freely.
“I remember feeling like these photos were unique evidence of a legitimate confrontation. These riders were standing up to the state saying ‘You are wrong and if you disagree, then I’ll be arrested but this wrong will not go undocumented'”.
The opening reception for the haunting portrait series will take place this Saturday from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM but the show will continue to be open for viewings until June 25th. For a more up-close interaction with the artist, Charlotta Janssen will also hold an artist talk on May 15th at the gallery from 3:00 to 6:00 pm.
“Great ideals are often a burden and you won’t always have success, but you have to keep trying. The 436 members of the tribe of the open minded who caught the bus between May and December in 1962 are a constat reminder that you can bring about change. I paint what moves me, I paint through what frustrates me.” Janssen explains.