Bringing down walls through murals: Flint painting highlights truth, racial healing

FLINT, Michigan— The mural site stretches long and blank in the Joy Tabernacle parking lot, ready to be splashed with story and color.  “Long vertical strokes,” instructs international muralist Magda Love to a group of Civic Park youth. 

“I’ll tell somebody: ‘I made that or I helped make it,’” said Aniyah Colston, 13, who along with her cousin Izereya Austin, 9, were recruited from the Claressa Shields summer camp to participate in the mural project. 

The mural portrays both renewal and growth through the joining of two hands supporting a growing plant, while also breaking a red line representing housing discrimination.

This mural was created through a partnership between the Flint Public Art, the Urban Renaissance Center, and the University of Michigan-Flint with support from a Truth and Action Grant, which exists solely to create civic engagement. It is one piece of the Flint Public Art Project initiative to complete 100 Flint murals by fall 2021. 

The inspiration for the mural came from a Truth and Racial Healing through art workshop hosted at Joy Tabernacle Church the day before. From brainstorming to completion and dedication ceremony took just four days.

“When you’re traveling, you always get an idea of maybe what a place is or what you want to work on,” said Magda Love. “But, you know, hearing from local people, what they think is going to be valuable to their community, that is really the way to go.” 

After a few rounds of tacos, slideshows, and questions, the consensus was clear: The mural would be about unity, but most of all it would showcase Civic Park’s growth as a community as well as its triumph over past and present hardships. 

Work on the mural began late Friday morning with loose sketching, but by 2 p.m. the once blank trailer had blossomed into swaths of orange, blue, purple, and red. The work went quickly with several pairs of hands eager to help.

“It's crazy that I’m helping,” said Cedrion Chapman, 16. “I’m not no artist but it's looking good...when I drive past and here and I’m gonna see it, I’m going to be like, I did that.” 

The mural was painted to completion Saturday evening, with the inauguration of the mural during Sunday morning service, where it was signed and blessed by the community. 

Related story: Flint Public Art Project to host Civic Park neighborhood art parade

"I think for me the beautiful thing of painting in a neighborhood like that is even though it's clearly been through a lot...the people that are living there...have a sense of belonging that is very strong,” said Magda Love.

The Truth and Action grant will extend to three murals city wide, the first being on the Joy Tabernacle water distribution trailer, with the second installation at the Latinx Tech Center and the third location not yet determined.
 
For more information, contact Phillip Barnhart by email at [email protected]

Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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