Artists hold sale for family of Korryn Gaines, mother killed in police standoff

Action through art: Baltimore artists sell works to raise money for family of Korryn Gaines.

Half the gray face showed a young woman, her nose and mouth bleeding in red. The other half showed a policeman, hooded and blue-eyed.

Baltimore artist Reese Clark titled her portrait "Reds, Whites and Blues." It was among the many pieces of art offered for sale Sunday in memory of Korryn Gaines, the Randallstown woman killed in a standoff with Baltimore County police.

Gaines, 23, was shot and killed last week at the end of the nearly seven-hour standoff. In the following days, a handful of artists and their friends organized the sale to benefit the young mother's family. Their drawings, paintings and pop-art posters spoke of police brutality and empowering African-American families.

Clark said her portrait represented her own encounter last year with an officer. She said only that they had an "altercation."

Another artist donated posters of a shotgun-armed Gaines with a quote attributed to Bob Marley: "Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life."

Some activists have decried Gaines' killing as a case of police brutality. Police said she pointed a shotgun at officers, told them to leave and threatened to kill them.

"They could have put tear gas on her," Taylor Evans said. "Why did y'all have to kill her?"

Evans donated artwork by her father: dangling wire earrings, a wind chime painting, a crab of copper-wire and glossy stones.

"He didn't hesitate when I asked," Evans said.

Her father, 69-year-old Baltimore artist Leif Evans, grew up in Fayetteville, N.C.

"He would always tell me stories," the daughter said. "He was never called the 'N' word by a white person until he came to Baltimore. ... That's just crazy to me."

More than 30 people gathered for the pop-up sale at the Southeast Baltimore studio Give & Take: An Artistic Experience.

The artists Clark and Milly Vanderwood opened the studio in December as a place to celebrate art and discuss the city's lingering problems. "All opinions are welcome," Clark said.

The sale was organized by Karl Keels, a local blogger who attended Baltimore City College with Gaines. He said it netted about $100.

"We're just basically here to help raise money for the family and make sure her kids are fine financially," he said.

Keels said Gaines worked to empower African-Americans in Baltimore.

"She cared about her people ... for someone with a positive message to leave us, that hurts."

Police say officers went to Gaines' apartment on Sulky Court last Monday to serve her an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court. Police say she pointed the shotgun at them and remained in the apartment with her 5-year-old son.

Gaines' family has questioned whether the department could have prevented her death. Police Chief Jim Johnson has said the agency followed procedures and worked hours to end the standoff peacefully. He said police fired only after Gaines raised her gun to a ready position and threatened to kill. Gaines returned fire. No officers were injured.

Gaines' 5-year-old son was wounded in his arm and cheek by police gunfire, police said.

The department has withheld the name of the officer who shot Gaines, citing "an unprecedented number of threats." The department typically releases the last names of officers involved in shootings.

A small crowd gathered on East Baltimore Street Sunday for spoken-word performances in memory of Gaines.

Martina Lynch would recite her poem "Fences," about the racial barriers that divide Baltimore.

She stood before the crowd and drew a breath.

"First off," she said, "rest in peace to Korryn Gaines."

tprudente@baltsun.com

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