After months of protesting and dealing with drama within the activist scene, Linneas Boland-Godbey realized he needed a change of pace. He figured other protesters did, too.

"It's been really hard during the COVID season not seeing all your friends all the time or your family," says Boland-Godbey. "So I was like, why don't we do an art share? It will be fun."

On Aug. 12, Boland-Godbey hosted an art-making meetup for activists protesting against racism in Irving Park. Since it was intended to provide some respite, he called the event BLM Art Therapy.

IMAGE: Sam Gehrke
IMAGE: Sam Gehrke
IMAGE: Sam Gehrke
IMAGE: Sam Gehrke

A photographer whose main creative outlet during the pandemic has been Masks of Color—a portraits series published on Instagram that highlights the experiences of Portlanders of color during the pandemic—Boland-Godbey has been a regular at the protests since the uprising started in June. Though it was much more impromptu, he led a similar art therapy event for houseless youth in Lownsdale Square in the middle of summer. But when police raided and dispersed camps downtown, much of the artwork and donated supplies were stolen.

The next time, Boland-Godbey wanted somewhere farther away from the Multnomah County Justice Center.

"We wanted to have a safer space," he says. "I found a place where people were more at peace with stuff."

That place was Irving Park. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the second week of August, nearly 200 people showed up at the Northeast Fremont Street park. Community members donated paint, markers, chalk, canvas and cardboard. There were activists who gave speeches, calming lo-fi music that played in the background, and food provided by Snack Bloc. Some people bedazzled masks, others painted on canvas or made cardboard signs. Some attendees were professional artists, like multidisciplinary musician, artist and model Tazha Williams, but most were just protesters looking for a different outlet for their frustration and a break from the tear gas.

IMAGE: Sam Gehrke
IMAGE: Sam Gehrke
IMAGE: Sam Gehrke
IMAGE: Sam Gehrke

Boland-Godbey will hold his next BLM Art Therapy gathering on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Like last time, attendees can donate their work to go on display at Spin Laundry, where it will be sold to benefit local Black-owned businesses.

"It was exactly what I wanted," says Boland-Godbey of the first gathering. "Taking a break from all the anger and expressing your frustration through a piece of art is very, very therapeutic in my opinion."