Lehi artist plans to continue momentum from community art project focused on racial equality

(Photo courtesy of Michelle Volz) Lehi artist Michelle Volz asked people to add their painted handprints to "The Handprint Pledge," a collaborative community art project she created.

The overwhelming response that Michelle Volz received from Utahns who wanted to add their handprints in paint to a collaborative art project she started has inspired her to keep the idea going.

Earlier this month, Volz, a 38-year-old Lehi artist, created “The Handprint Pledge” in response to the ongoing protests in Utah and across the country against racial inequity and police brutality. She painted two canvases black and brought them to a protest at Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City, to a Provo park and to her community members. At each place, Volz painted people’s palms in shades of brown, tan and cream to match their skin tones and asked them to add their handprints to the canvases.

People place their hands on a Bible or hold their hands in the air when they make a pledge or swear an oath, Volz said. These painted handprints are a “visual and tactile representation” of people pledging “to do better and to listen and to learn and to stand up” for racial equality, she said.

Volz auctioned off one of the canvases on her Instagram page last week, with all the proceeds going to the NAACP. Bidding started at $300, and the winning bid was $610 from a Vineyard woman. Volz initially didn’t realize that the woman had also challenged her friends to match her bid and that her husband’s employer made a contribution. In total, they donated $3,000 to the NAACP from the auction, she said.

Volz wanted to give the second canvas to the state of Utah for local leaders to see and be reminded of the conversations happening right now. After making some phone calls, she said, she’s donating the piece to the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs.

Her original plan was to only create two canvases, but after Volz received so much interest in the project, she decided to make a third piece. That one is going to be displayed at Brigham Young University’s counseling center, she said.

Volz said that she hopes when people who helped create these handprint paintings see them hanging at the Rio Grande building or on the BYU campus, that they are “reminded of the pledge that they made.” They’ll think, “I did that because I mean it and this means a lot to me,” she said.

People can also now buy paper and canvas prints of the collaborative project at handprintpledge.org. Volz said she plans to start shipping items out after July 4. A portion of the proceeds “will be donated to organizations that can continue to assist in racial justice and equality for all,” she said.

Volz created “The Handprint Pledge” a couple of weeks ago when she was feeling helpless about how she could contribute to the ongoing movements. She decided to use her art. Going forward, she hopes to keep the momentum going. Her next plan is to create a similar project in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m proud that this is something that’s caught on,” she said.