Art, especially public art, can be a powerful tool for bringing communities together. The Shining Light Foundation, founded by Gizette Knight, is making main street art with their Black History Month Mural Project, where artists paint 28 murals representing the 28 days of February.
Artists have worked on buildings in downtown Phoenix for the project. This year, they will also be painting in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta. Recently, we were honored to have three of these incredibly talented artists on YurView’s Creative Living show. Watch the video above to meet them and see some of their inspiring works of art. Or, read the full interview transcription below (lightly edited for clarity).
Giovannie Dixon, Artist (00:07) – Hi. My name is Giovanni and this is my mural. What intrigued me most about this project is that I’m an artist that started my art career here in Phoenix. And I realized there was not a lot of Black street artists, and then there was not a lot of Black art on walls. So that’s what intrigues me the most is that this is a project that’s putting up multiple and plentiful walls of Black people.
(00:31) – And one of the things that I learned new, you know, as far as Black history goes, as far as knowing and looking into the people that I’m painting, is that I didn’t know who the guy was who did the fist up during the Olympics back in the 60s. Now I know. Now I do know his name, Thomas Smith. So that’s cool to know those little things. And now, I mean, I’m able to kind of stamp it here in Phoenix.
Debra Jones, Artist (00:55) – I’m Debra. And this is my mural. When I was approached about this project as a portrait painter, I kind of liked the idea of a challenge. I’ve done large scale pieces that were called murals, but I had never done an outdoor mural. And I really love the subject matter.
(01:14) – They didn’t assign us the subjects right off the bat. We had to kind of hear what they were going to do. And I’ve always loved Black performers, especially Josephine Baker. And I was thrilled. I got to pick it, and this is the one that I was most happy with.
(01:32) – The problem with finding reference as a portrait painter was not finding reference. It was finding the likeness and being able to convey who these people were quickly and individually. Like Josephine Baker, I had her in a showgirl outfit, but that’s just selling her short. Sammy Davis Jr. – versatility. And Dorothy Dandridge, we’re kind of going to have to learn a little bit more about her because those movies are there. But a lot of people don’t know it was her.
Maria Madrid Reed
Maria Madrid Reed, Artist (02:00) – My name is Maria Madrid Reed, and this is my mural. So in honor of Black History Month, I’m creating this mural. And it’s going to feature three prominent figures of history.
(02:13) – What attracted me to this project was showing people the story behind other figures that we don’t normally hear about. I wanted to do this one in particular because of the whole history behind it. And that really attracted me to it. When the mural’s finished, I really hope that it inspires people to find out more about the people represented in the mural. It’s important for us to learn about history so that we can help in the future.
For more information on the Shining Light Foundation’s Black History Month Mural Project:
And, for more Black History Month features on YurView, visit yurview.com/BlackHistoryMonth.