Sahara sriraman, Spectrum editor
A diamond-shaped mural with an image inspired by teal Sankofa iconography is surrounded by thick red and yellow lines, creating a contrast of colors that immediately grabs attention. The large fresco financed by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative is located at the intersection of West Marshall Street and Brook Road.
In September, ART 180, Gallery5, Walter Parks Architects and the City of Richmond came together to begin the process of painting a large-scale street painting, which was funded by a grant to reimagine public spaces in through works of art, according to the initiatives website.
While over 200 different cities applied for this grant, Richmond was one of 16 cities chosen to continue the project. The project is funded by the initiative’s $ 25,000 grant; Venture Richmond is also donating an additional $ 5,000 to the project.
Vaughn Garland, director of community programs and partnerships at ART 180, said they decided the project should take place in Jackson Ward due to the complex history surrounding the area itself.
âJackson Ward has a very unique story, a very important story that is sometimes overlooked,â Garland said.
The mural is an image of Sankofa, originally from the Akan people in Ghana, designed by local artist Chris Visions, located outside the Atlas gallery of ART 180. ART 180 is a organization that partners with Richmond Public Schools to develop a variety of free or low-cost programs for disadvantaged students, allowing them to practice and cultivate their artistic skills. Visions runs an ART 180 program for teens that takes place in the fall and is also a Edward Dean Robinson Teaching Artist in Residence.
Gallery5 is an art center that exhibits innovative and progressive artwork located in Jackson Ward. Walter Parks Architects is an architectural firm specializing in “rehabilitation” projects of historic properties around Richmond.
The project consists of three parts: the mural, a parklet and a pedestrian square. Garland said that although the main mural of the image of Sankofa has been completed at the intersection, the artists plan to have a second phase of the project. Painting will continue on Brook and Marshall streets and a pedestrian Maggie L. Walker Memorial Square will be redone in the coming weeks in partnership with Gallery5, according to Garland.
Garland said that at present, the entire project is expected to be completed on November 5. He said this project is important to Richmond because it allows people to connect through a common space they all use – the streets.
âIt’s important that Richmond continues to move forward in many ways, including the streetscape and what the streets look like, and returning some of these spaces to public space,â Garland said. .
He said it was crucial to have an experienced artist like Visions as he brings a new take on this project, allowing Visions to use their own experiences when overseeing the project.
âNot only is it a good thing for people to relax, which is the idea of ââthe parklet, but it means something in terms of vocabulary, our language in the future,â Garland said.
Garland said he believes this project will continue the conversation about improving more public spaces around Richmond for people to enjoy.
âIt’s been a global momentâ¦ one of those times where we could see, potentially, projects like this in the future because now we’ve kind of set up a situation where we’ve learned from each other. “Garland said. âI think it has been deeply rewarding in so many ways. “
Zoe Perry, a sophomore painting and printmaking student, said she was not surprised that Richmond is recognized for its rich arts and culture due to the number of talented artists who reside there.
She said she was delighted that ART 180 students were part of the painting process, as the arts are not generally considered essential, which means that many young artists do not have many opportunities to cultivate their artistic talents. She said it’s important for young artists to have the opportunity to do what they love.
“Art gives a way to communicate with all kinds of people because it transcends the level of language and education, and I know that is not a deep idea, but even those with visual or hearing disabilities can use art to communicate, âPerry said in a direct message.
She said this overall project has been beneficial to the Richmond arts community as it showcases both the talents of these students and the abundance of talent within the Richmond arts community. She said that as an artist herself, she knows how the practice of art can be crucial for artistic growth and discovery.
Perry said she believes this project will showcase the diverse and expansive talent of Richmond’s arts community and allow it to be presented and appreciated beyond the city.
âI believe this project will continue to strengthen Richmond’s reputation as a hotbed of creative expression, especially in terms of raising the voice of marginalized communities,â said Perry.