Richmond Murals: The Power of Public Art

Richmond Murals: The Power of Public Art


♪ ♪♪ It’s really awesome
to see Richmond go through this public art boom, especially as someone who’s
from a city who’s already gone through that boom. I grew up in Philadelphia. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was like
my art gallery. I mean, in Philly you can’t walk
a block without seeing a mural. And they’re very
community driven. The murals look like me. My high school art teacher,
he encouraged me to go VCU. I decided to go into sculpture, and that way if I didn’t end up
being a professional artist, I could be a welder
or carpenter. I learned about a wide
variety of tools and equipment and lots about materials. So when I got out of school, I was pretty well
equipped to do whatever. I went to architecture
school at Hampton University. I graduated. Practiced architecture
for about seven years. Hated every year of it. And the recession hit in 2009, and I had some time to kind of
be me and started making art. Did more art in 2009 than
I’ve ever done in my life and ran across some
really good opportunities, was asked to do my first mural. I did that mural and fell
in love with the process. I wasn’t a muralist. I wasn’t known as an artist. It was something that someone
said here’s a free wall, you can do whatever you want to. It was a politician
holding a gun to his head. And so once I did that, some people had some
complaints about it. It was the first time
that I realized that people were consuming my art. And so that was the first
time I that thought, hey, this is something. And it also awoken an
accountability to the community in which these things
live. The one that’s my favorite
right now is the one that’s on the intersection
of First and Broad, and that was done with
Girls for a Change. And not because of
any aesthetic reason. It’s because the girls kind of
poured their heart and soul into the meaning of that. And they still congregate
to that now. The first thing that I
noticed about painting a mural is that before I had any
content on the wall, people that were walking
by would say good job. And I don’t get that here. It’s just me and my own
demons here in the studio. But out in the world
when you do a mural, everybody sees it, whether
they want to or not. It’s there. So the images that I make don’t
have same power that Hamilton might have been talking about,
but they have a subtle power that it’s not a
specific message. It’s just a general
message of happiness and collaboration and fun. I love the fact that I can just
share something with everybody. They might not like it, but that’s okay because
it’s in their city. It’s for them to not like
or it’s for them to like. I made about 600 of
these little houses, these little things with
the magnets on the bottom. So I thought that I would stick
these wherever around Richmond just for people to
notice or be curious about and wonder why it’s there. But they ended up being stolen. People would call me and say
I found one of your houses. Thanks. I was like, well, why
don’t you put it back. It was like their own gifts. Someone contacted me and
wanted to tell me that they had gotten one and
gave it to their mom. And when their mom died, she
was buried with it because she said that it made it
feel like family or home. And when I thought
of it like that, it then occurred to me to what
all it might have meant. I just try to use the
power of art in general. I have kind of been trying
to be an example of a living, breathing black
artist, which sounds funny but the reason I did
not go into art was because I did
not have an example. And so I often do things in
Richmond Public Schools. And when I do those things, I make it a point to go
to the art classes and talk and do things
like that because I think it’s important for kids to
see that you can be anything. The water harvesting
sculpture at BinfordMiddle was to me like a
three-dimensional mural. And I thought it was important
to include the students because they go
to that school, and I wanted them to
be invested in it. So they all drew what they
wanted to have happen over in that corner of
the middle school. One of the drawings was exactly
like my original drawing, but it had cooler ideas
in it than my drawings. So we used that
one as the basis to make this sculpture
at BinfordMiddle. Most people think that murals
are this monumental thing because they’re larger
than life and things and that they stay forever, but
they’re supposed to go away. Hamilton and I actually
worked on one that was… it took longer for us to paint
it than it actually stayed up. It was painted over
within a couple of weeks. But Hamilton wasn’t
upset at all. He just shrugged it off. Okay. It went down,
if that makes any sense. Like it just leaves
room for something else. And maybe the neighborhood has
changed or the places change. And that should happen. I just believe in
that power of art. In general, it’s really
for people to experience and then move beyond the art.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *