Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Heather M. Shirey

Second Advisor

Todd Lawrence

Third Advisor

Amy Mickelson


On May 25th, 2020, George Perry Floyd Junior was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt with his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. In the wake of his death, millions across the world protested police brutality and the continued loss of Black lives. The epicenter of these protests originated at the community led and activated spontaneous memorial where
George Floyd was murdered at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, known as George Floyd Square. In this paper I address how Minneapolis community members created, maintained, and made use of a space in reaction to state sanctioned violence. Spontaneous memorials are created by tragedy and act as a response to collective grief. I contend that George Floyd Square has functioned as a community led and activated spontaneous memorial for over a year and a half. My research incorporates Ethnohistory and Anticolonial methodologies along with Critical Race Theory and Trauma Informed Care. I use these theories and methods in conjunction with ethnographic interviews of George Floyd Square community members and caretakers to better understand the gravity of this space. Additionally, I have created and analyzed a survey completed by visitors of George Floyd Square which contributes significant evidence in how visitors interpret George Floyd Square. Within this essay, I have discovered the many roles of George Floyd Square, the significance of its creation, and its functioning outside of typical government structures. This paper offers a significant contribution to the research of spontaneous memorials and activated space.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.