In celebration of Black History Month, Meijer launched a special collection of products featuring the art of three Black Midwestern artists – Dana Powell-Smith, Melina Brann and Shaunt’e Lewis – on products in every Meijer supercenter. The retailer will ultimately donate 5% of sales from the collection to Urban League affiliates in the artists’ home states of Indiana and Michigan.
The collection includes a mix of paintings and digital art printed on decorative pillows, stationery, gift bags, canvas tote bags, key rings, kitchen towels and throw blankets, featuring the three winning pieces of art. The limited-edition products are available in all Meijer supercenters as supplies last now through February 26.
Meijer selected the featured pieces from hundreds of submissions after putting out a call for culturally-inspired art in 2021 as part of its ongoing efforts to support underrepresented communities and ensure every customer sees themselves reflected on its shelves. The winning pieces were selected by Meijer merchants based on team member votes.
“What I love most about the art we’re highlighting is that while all three artists took inspiration from the same prompt of Black History Month, they each approached it from a totally different viewpoint with their own unique style,” said Carla Hendon, Director of Supplier Diversity and Indirect Procurement at Meijer. “It highlights the diversity we have within the Black community.”
For example, Lansing, Mich.-based social worker and artist Melina Brann purposefully uses a pastel color palette not typically associated with Black coloring to depict a “pyramid of faces” representing the building blocks of community.
“For this piece, I wanted to show how Black women and Black people in our community lift each other up,” Brann said. “I hope my art sends the message that we’re all in this together – no matter what we look like, no matter who we are – we can lift each other up and make anything happen.”
Indianapolis artist Dana Powell-Smith hopes to inspire viewers of her piece – which features bold “triangle people” that have become her calling card, against an abstract backdrop of names of important Black historical figures – to learn more about those who paved the way for the Black community. Among the names listed in the piece is Georgette Seabrooke Powell, a noted Harlem Renaissance muralist and illustrator, as well as Powell-Smith’s grandmother.
“To me, celebrating Black History Month means looking back. I hope that [customers] will take away a little history and really look into the names that are on [my art]… And maybe smile when they see my triangle people with their hairstyles,” Powell-Smith said. “I always want to make people smile with my art. It’s different, it’s a little quirky, but it’s relatable. That’s just really important to me – I want people to see themselves in it.”
In her piece, “Madam Queen,” Indianapolis artist Shaunt’e Lewis uses bold lines and colors to portray a powerful, empowered Black woman wearing a head covering, a common subject across her art. Lewis, who only began pursuing her art full-time in 2021, has already seen significant success in her community, painting a car live at the Indy500 and having art featured in the New York Times.
“It means quite a bit to me to know that this early on in my career, people believe in me enough to give me the opportunity to showcase my work in a major store like Meijer and that Meijer supports artists and local communities,” Lewis said. “It’s important for stores like Meijer to represent Black artists and all types of artists because we don’t always get to see ourselves in spaces like this.”
Meijer will donate 5 percent of the sales generated from the Black History Month art collection to Urban Leagues in the artists’ states – the Urban League of West Michigan and the Indianapolis Urban League.
This is the first of five local artist collections the retailer will unveil this year, with others tied to locally-inspired art, Women’s History Month, Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month to come.