Atrium, Main Level

On March 17, 2020, Brown & Dickson Bookstore and the floral boutique Grow & Bloom Co. temporarily closed as part of the province-wide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. When vandals struck their neighbours, these two Richmond Street businesses boarded up their windows and hired artist Nohl Reiser to  transform the blank plywood with colour and the message “Stay Safe.”

The past three years have been tough, but these challenges have not been experienced by everyone in the same way. Expressions of hope and community solidarity, like “Stay Safe” are encouraging and can be unifying. But for some people safety is elusive — some of us have suffered more than others, some of us experience more barriers than others, and some of us do not have equal access to the necessities of “staying safe.” 

As well-meaning as they are, how do public messages of compassion and kindness help to address the ongoing mental health crisis, the crisis of homelessness, or the injustices of poverty, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, gender-based violence, and other expressions of prejudice? What does safety look like and feel like for those whose lives and livelihoods are continuously threatened? How can we individually and collectively foster safety and belonging for the entire community?  

Stay Safe: Then and Now prompts us to consider what it will take for every Londoner to feel that they can “stay safe.” This plywood sign exposes, perhaps as no other historical artifact at Museum London has, the tension that exists between who we are, and what we want to be.

Image: Nohl Reiser, Stay Safe, 2020, spray paint on plywood, Collection of Museum London, Gift of Jason Dickson and Vanessa Brown, London, Ontario, 2020 Image © Toni Hafkenscheid