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Artist brings African art to Richmond’s Jackson Ward: 'It is a prominent symbol’

Artist brings African art to Richmond’s Jackson Ward: 'It is a prominent symbol’
Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 18:25:15-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A crowd formed at the intersection of Brook Road and West Marshall Street on Wednesday at the site of a two-year transformation in Richmond’s Jackson Ward.

City of Richmond staff from Planning and Development Review, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Utilities and the Public Art Commission worked alongside Venture Richmond to make the project possible.

Additional project partners include ART 180, Big Secret, CB Chandler Construction, Cite Design, Gallery 5, Richmond Toolbank, Vanderbilt Properties, and Walter Parks Architects

Mayor Levar Stoney and Venture Richmond cut the ribbon on a new public space connecting the Historic Jackson Ward neighborhood and City Center.

“We learned that residents, visitors alike want more places and spaces to gather, interact, engage,” Stoney explained.

They unveiled a new pedestrian plaza, parklet and a striking mural at the location considered the gateway to the city’s Arts District.

This isn’t just some paint on the pavement. Now, rich colors fill the road. Red, black and green represents the Pan-African flag.

The design is based on the Sankofa, an Adinkra symbol from Ghana meaning “to go back and retrieve/get.”

Max Hepp-Buchanan with Ventura Richmond led the project with the help of a dozen of other organizations.

“This was designed and painted by a local artist named Chris Visions who also engaged the youth at Art 180 to help paint it,” he said.

The mural references the rich history of Jackson Ward and the neighborhood’s enduring mission to carry on a legacy of Black excellence, according to a press release.

“It is a prominent symbol at the ancestral burial grounds in Shockoe and speaks to the intention of the Jackson Ward project to reach back to our rich legacy and make sure it shines as a beacon,” Stoney stated.

Stoney said this project is what Richmonders have been asking for while reinforcing the city’s commitment to public art.

“COVID is still around and it’s really important to be outside still and give people public space to interact,” said Hepp-Buchanan. “Restaurants want more outdoor seating; people want more places to visit outside for recreation or for social interactions.”

The project was paid for through a $25,000 Asphalt Art Initiative placemaking grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, $5,000 from Venture Richmond and $9,000 from the city’s public art commission.

Crews also restored the historic bricks that existed beneath the asphalt in front of Gallery 5 while the parklet sits outside of Art 180 to increase the educational opportunities for their students.