South Park characters, exploding heads and spray paint are just a few of the new additions marking the conclusion of last month’s fourth annual Richmond Mural Project.
Twelve muralists from different continents completed more than 20 murals throughout Richmond from July 13-24. At the end of last month, the project had successfully finished 60 murals in four years.
“(The Richmond Mural Project) is building a culture,” said Ackshun Jackson, the manager of Southeast D.C.’s “Blind Whino” art gallery, and one of the event organizers.
Jackson’s Blind Whino gallery is an affiliate of the Richmond Mural Project’s official project organizer — Art Whino — which is another D.C. based art gallery. The Art Whino gallery has more than 1,200 artists in its arsenal of connections, and hopes to provide Richmond with a dynamic new aesthetic by painting 100 murals in just five years.
“When you have several murals going up in the span of two weeks and you have all these world famous people in one place, you’re creating an atmosphere and then a culture. (…) People all over the world are going to be talking about Richmond, Virginia,” Jackson said.
Richmond local and VCU film alumni, Nils Westergard, painted two pieces in this year’s mural project. He explained that the painting process has not necessarily been easy for the artists and project organizers.
“(Art Whino) is working uphill against the vibe in Richmond,” Westergard said. “It’s really difficult, and the (residence/business) owners here are very entitled. They kind of treat everything like its commission, like they get their own personal piece and it’s just not the way this works.”
According to Westergard, the red tape issues and attitude of commercial and residential owners has impacted the designs of not only his pieces, but of other artists too.
Westergard said another muralist, Evoca1, had designed two infants with a pile of Rottweilers, but people said it was too dark or violent. Last month, RVAmag reported that a local business owner called muralist Taylor White’s piece on Belmont Avenue, “demonic.”
“I have a giant naked woman behind 821 and no one’s said anything about that,” Westergard said.
Regardless of these roadblocks the organizers and artists have to navigate in order to paint the walls in Richmond, their efforts are not ignored by local residents.
“This wall used to blank, (…) nothing special,” said Richmond resident Sal Ensler, as he gazed upwards at Berlin-based artist James Bullough’s mural, “Float,” on the corner of Lombardy and Broad street.
“Now there’s this giant painting that I can’t help but stare at on my way to the bus stop,” Ensler said about Bullough’s finished piece. “And if I still stare at it pretty much every day, then I know there will be some folks who come in September for the bike races who will just be amazed.”
According to Westergard, Bullough’s original design was denied after the psychiatry office in that building said it looked like the girl was falling to her death.
Overall, Westergard said he finds it much easier to paint abroad, and that is what makes the effort by Art Whino even more admirable.
“The city supports it, but they could make it easier for us. There are a lot of murals here now but they didn’t come easy” Westergard concluded.
Some of this year’s artists hailed from Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Berlin, Japan and Switzerland.
Artist: James Bulough