CHICAGO — Using vibrant colors and intricate flowers as a sign of growth, a Chicago artist utilizes her artwork to uplift marginalized communities and visualize the change many artists hope to see in the world.
Shirien Damra, a Palestinian illustrator, is showcasing her work at IMAN Central, a South Side community organization, to create a visual platform for social justice initiatives.
“I want to use art to pave a vision moving forward,” Damra said.
With more than 10 years of experience, Damra has fore fronted her art in causes ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to raising awareness for the Indigenous community.
“Black and Brown communities are often villainized, and many people haven’t gotten the love from society, so I want to uphold their dignity,” Damra said.
Damra works with families, non-profits, and legal teams to create honest, informative, yet eye-catching art pieces.
Her newest exhibit is featured at IMAN (Inner-City Muslim Action Network) Central in Chicago Lawn – a display of artwork she calls “Envisioning Liberation,” a set on healing, resistance, and imagination.
“To me, design should not only be beautiful but empowering, accessible and inclusive,” she said.
Damra says, as an artist, she prefers not to re-create systems of violence or injustice but instead illustrate underprivileged groups with bright colors and intricate florals.
“Even in terms of my color selection, I make them bright, I love colors. I try to be mindful of people’s accessibility for people with color blindness or other visual difficulties,” Damra said.
Centering her work around women and people of color, Damra is partnering with IMAN to give a platform for artists in Chicago.
Binta Diallo is the Associate Director of Arts and Culture at IMAN and hopes the collaboration demonstrates the power of community.
“We are honored to share Shirien’s work to help connect disconnected communities, and nurture individual and communal transformative healing by way of visual art,” Diallo said.
IMAN is situated in a part of Chicago that Damra says is historically home to a diverse community of African Americans, Palestinians, and Latinos.
In the exhibit, Damra features themes of spirituality, solidarity, self-care, and In Memoriam — most of which highlight intersectionality within social issues and healing from traumas.
“The main reason for this exhibit is to reimagine the world as it could be,” Diallo said.
The exhibit will be on display Friday at IMANifest Arts Studio at 2744 West 63rd Street. The exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
For more information, visit: Envisioning Liberation by Shirien Creates [Opening Reception] – Inner-City Muslim Action Network (imancentral.org)