2020 Charlotteans of the Year: Uptown’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ Mural

A group of artists coalesced this summer to make a statement big enough for the world to see
Blm Mural 1
Photo by Logan Cyrus

ON THE EVENING OF JUNE 8, demonstrators marched through uptown for the 11th consecutive night to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The next morning, 17 artists gathered on one block of the space where protesters had marched—South Tryon Street between 3rd and 4th streets—and, chalk in hand, outlined the 16 letters that spell “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

Next came the paint rollers. Then news crews and pedestrians trickled in to watch a block-long painting come to life. The street mural was inspired by a similar one crafted in Washington, D.C., that week; Charlotte’s was born from a partnership of the arts organizations Charlotte is Creative, Brand the Moth, and BlkMrkt CLT—and the city, which paid each artist $500 and approved each design without revision. The artists carried the mural from conception to completion in 72 hours.

Charlotte’s “Black Lives Matter” mural made international headlines and appeared in the introduction video for the NBA’s season inside the bubble at Disney World. The city temporarily closed the block to vehicular traffic as thousands of visitors came to view and photograph the mural. At first, the city planned to reopen the block at the end of September. But officials postponed the reopening until the end of the year, with an eye toward turning stretches of uptown streets into pedestrian-friendly plazas.

A cynical refrain echoed throughout social media nationwide: A mural doesn’t solve anything. Charlotte’s artists say that was never the point. The painting, on a public street in the heart of the city, is meant to remind us of the work we need to do as we try to unite our community. “Public art,” co-organizer and artist Dammit Wesley said in an Instagram post, “is a single cog in the wheel of change.”

 

From Dammit Wesley’s pop art-inspired “B” to Dari Calamari’s pulsating “R,” the mural radiates the vibrancy and diversity within the group listed here with their Instagram handles:

Dammit Wesley, @dammit_wesley
Dakotah Aiyanna, @dakotahaiyanna
Matthew Clayburn, @matthewclayburn
Abel Jackson, @artbyabel
Garrison Gist, @2gzandcountin
Owl & Arko, @owl.clt and @arko.clt
Kyle Mosher, @thekylemosher
Franklin Kernes, @fk.creative
Kiana Mui, @kmuiii
Marcus Kiser, @marcus_kiser
Georgie Nakima, @gardenofjourney
Zach McLean, @part_t1m3
Frankie Zombie, @frankie.zombie_
CHD:WCK!, @chdwckart
John Hairston, Jr., @jagolactus_
Dari Calamari, @daricalamari