In the New Museum’s lobby on Thursday night, a circle of women, all dressed in red, swayed from side to side, clapping as they chanted a simple call and response: “End the war on black people,” followed by “It’s time.”
As the refrain continued, onlookers became participants.
The event, presented by Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter, served as a balm at a time when the country is confronting painful questions about racial bias and police practices. The organizers said the aim was to provide a template for fellow artists looking for their own ways to respond and inspire others.
Mario Moore, who explained that he had attended out of curiosity, said he was struck by “the women in red singing a song.” He added, “There’s something about the presence of black people in this static space that feels like a family reunion.”
In a roundabout way, the event was a sort of extension of Simone Leigh’s summer residency and exhibition, “Simone Leigh: The Waiting Room,” at the museum. Her show, continuing through Sept. 18, explores and expands concepts of medicine and self-care.
Ms. Leigh’s exhibition draws inspiration from apothecaries, among other entities promoting health. A reimagining of her 2014 project organized by Creative Time, “The Waiting Room” features ancillary programs called care sessions. Those include a guided meditation this Saturday, a nod to Ms. Leigh’s artistic mission of exploring black subjectivity, with a focus on black women.
“It’s always been taboo to announce my audience is black women,” she said. “People were slow to recognize the work because of my insistence on the black subject being a core of the work.
“I’m really happy that I have been able to have a career and stand my ground.”
Although Thursday’s program and Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter are unrelated to “The Waiting Room,” Ms. Leigh called them “an appropriate next step” in initiating conversations about social justice.
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