If you’ve been to the Colony Plaza Shopping Center in the heart of Malibu this past week, you may have noticed a loving tribute in the center’s courtyard. The statue of the little girl in overalls reading near the fountain that has greeted visitors and residents for more than 20 years is adorned with a collar. The cut-out paper collar was placed on the bronze artwork by local artist Cindy Short. Short, a 24-year Malibu resident, not only meant the collar to be a tribute to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—she was hoping the collar would spark meaningful conversations in what many are calling today’s divisive times. She’s calling it the RBG Challenge.

“I’m really interested in how we initiate and participate in bigger conversations around where we’re at—politically and socially,” Short commented. “I feel like there’s just not enough listening and conversation and more blame and accusation. In the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing—for many of us she’s been a huge icon in the equal rights movement.”  

While social media is often full of vitriol, Short said she appreciated Ginsburg’s practice of listening to others. 

“One of her best friends was [Supreme Court] Justice Antonin Scalia, who was hyper conservative, and she was hyper liberal, yet they had an amazing relationship,” Short said. 

Short’s Instagram @LaughingDogArts features photos of others who’ve accepted the #RBGChallenge. There you’ll find other ways people got creative in homage to RBG. One photo depicts a cat wearing a “lace” collar made of a paper plate. Another is a shot of a dog wearing glasses and a cut off tee-shirt fashioned into a collar. 

“This is happening everywhere. Even NBA players are wearing them.  I would love to see this kind of thing turn into a nationwide creative project,” Short added.

There are similar tributes growing nationwide, independent of Short’s. Widely circulated photos of the “Fearless Girl” statue outside the New York Stock Exchange building show the iconic artwork wearing a lace collar in homage. 

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Short, who also makes upcycled RBG tee-shirts, said, “Rather than a profit-making venture, for me, I want to promote dialogue. RBG’s death had a profound effect on what I feel is the end of a real democratic process in how we work through differences in doing the hard work of what democracy really is. And that means listen and talking through difference to find answers and solutions to common goals, and that’s just not what I’m witnessing anywhere today. What I want to do is to encourage people to think about how they civically participate through this creative process.”  

The Malibu artist is encouraging others to make a creative statement by cutting, painting, embroidering or crochet. 

“It doesn’t matter how,” she said. “What’s important is finding a way to move through what feels like a moment of uncertainty and to find ways to start conversations across all kinds of perspectives. I think that this idea of the RBG challenge is a valuable place for any of us to have conversations.”

Short also called RBG “a fierce equal rights advocate and icon. 

“The tribute to her is about her life’s work of integrity, listening through difference, coming to solutions and fighting for people whose voices weren’t being heard,” the artist continued. “It’s about listening and everyone being heard. She carved a path for so many people to be heard.”

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