Angelique James, Contributing Writer
Expressive murals and community cleanups are just some of the changes the “More than Art: Inner City Mural Project” are making to the Richmond community. Developed by Crenius LLC, artists are painting artwork on the side of local businesses in order to elevate underrepresented communities.
The start of “More than Art” began with the aim to connect art, culture and community, according to the Crenius website.
For Richmond artist Ron Stokes, the project is about art justice and art inequalities in areas where it’s needed the most. While working on the mural, Stokes said that he wanted to bring underrepresented neighborhoods the same artwork that people see at galleries.
“I imagined a young kid riding his bike down the street that doesn’t have the ability to get to like the VMFA or the ICA and give him the same piece of artwork but in his neighborhood,” Stokes said. “He’s just riding his bike down the street, and he looks up and sees it.”
Stokes explained the project was started by Ra-Twoine “Rosetta” Fields” due to a lack of artwork in inner-city communities.
“When you look at a lot of things in our community, we haven’t always been given the best full access and it’s nice now to look at a project like this where we’re tearing down some of those walls and giving that same access to members of our communities,” Stokes said.
“I would love to see it go, you know, outside of Virginia, and just continue and just get bigger and bigger.” — Jered Fykes
The “More than Art” project represents something personal to local photographer Phuong Tran. As an immigrant from Vietnam, taking photos of the project and being around other artists created a feeling of community for them.
“As someone who wasn’t born here, who came to Richmond just five years ago, and who constantly struggled to find my home and find my, kind of, ground enrichment,” Tran said, “I find a sense of home and a sense of community right there.”
Tran explained that when they arrived to paint the mural, the community greeted them with music and food, showing that “More than Art” created a tangible impact on Richmond residents.
“Art is like a reason for people to show up, but when they show up, there will be interaction, there will be a conversation, there will be inspiration going on, it’s the entire package that like makes it 100 times more powerful,” Tran stated.
Jered Fykes, a local Richmond artist who contributed to the project, said he was happy to be a part of the project.
“It’s cool to get that [practice] on top of knowing that we’re doing something good … And I think that’s what drives me to want to keep being a part of it,” Fykes said.
Fykes said that people around the neighborhood began to give back by picking up trash and handing out water bottles, once they saw the murals in their communities.
In the future, the “More than Art” project plans to expand to other cities in Virginia and paint more murals in underprivileged communities.
“I would love to see it go, you know, outside of Virginia, and just continue and just get bigger and bigger,” Fykes said.
The project is being funded by a GoFundMe page, which is helping provide supplies.