RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond is renowned for its street art and murals but just like resources and investment historically, certain neighborhoods and spaces are left out, according to a group of local artists.
Crenius LLC, a local creative agency that collaborates with area artists, is bringing creative, vibrant works to new spaces. “More than Art: Inner City Mural Project” puts original murals to privately owned businesses in an effort to beautify and uplift communities.
“I think there’s immense beauty inside what people call the inner city or the hood,” said Ra-Twoine Fields, who goes by Rosetta and founded Crenius. “Ingenuity, there’s innovation, there’s creativity, and it comes from necessity. When you’re pushed to create certain things out of necessity, that drives that needle.”
The goal of the project is to collaborate with community organizations and members to bring the community in on creative work. Artist Genevieve DeMarco is helping lead the design of the first mural, which sits just off Hull Street near the courthouse.
“I think it’s a good project to be part of because it has a deep meaning,” DeMarco said.
“You can’t have a Richmond without Gilpin Court. You can’t have a Richmond without a Hillside Court. You can’t have a Richmond without a Creighton, without a Mosby, without a Fairfield, you just can’t,” Rosetta said. “So when I say Carytown and Church Hill and all these places, yeah these places deserve art. I love seeing art all over the city. I actually really enjoy it, but what about these other places? I think that’s our biggest goal now, is to drive that attention and beautification to these spaces.”
Rosetta has a fundraising page for those who want to help with the project through financial means. It lays out an ambitious set of goals for what the projects will bring.
“With our current mural and mutual aid project, we are focused on helping to change the narratives and spur needed conversations that lead to direct action and change focused on employment, mental health, community safety, increasing representation of/in the arts, improving environmental aesthetics/stewardship and more in underserved and under-represented communities,” it reads.
Rosetta said the project also needs volunteers, artists, and supplies to help fund future murals. A community volunteer day is set for Saturday, July 17, at the intersection of Mosby Street and Fairmount Avenue. The group will be cleaning and priming the space for their next project from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day.
The mural that’s almost complete on Hull Street serves another purpose in who it memorializes. Between panes of bright colors and flowers, are the smiling faces of two Black men shot and killed in Richmond: Marcus-David Peters, who was shot by a Richmond Police officer, and Erik McCorkle, who was killed in a shooting on Broad Street in 2016.
“His ideas of grandeur; he had some ideas,” said Terri Hamilton, McCorkle’s mother, as she looks at the actual photo that inspired her son’s smiling face on the mural. “He meant the world to us actually. He was so funny, so entertaining. He was my heart.”
Eva Goodwin, McCorkle’s sister, said she drives past the mural every day.
“Whenever I pass it, I say, ‘hey brother.’ I’m just so happy and so grateful,” she said.
A creative type in his own right, McCorkle was recording music before he was gunned down. His family was sent a record he was working on prior to his death that they listen to daily and wonder about that path cut short.
“My hope is that people will see this mural, see the light and the life in his face, and it will be a reminder to stop the senseless gun violence,” Goodwin said.
“No one wins. Both families lose; both families are at a loss. I wish they would understand that.” Hamilton said.
For Rosetta, honoring Peters and McCorkle was important because they said too often the killing of Black people is placed on a scale of importance to the community.
“A lot of times we see victims of violence put on a scale. If you have more of a political or charged up, you get pushed out in the public. Unfortunately, it even took George Floyd, a national event, to get Marcus the attention he deserved in his own city,” Rosetta said. “We would feel remiss to not show that connection.”
Even though art might not directly solve some of the biggest problems, the project organizers said this mural and others like it will serve as more than paint on a wall.
“Even though both of the people in these paintings have passed and the way that it went wouldn’t be ideal. Whenever we’re trying to memorialize them, it definitely should be a celebration of life. So the bright colors make it vibrant” DeMarco said.
“Seeing his mom react to it, seeing his sister react to it, seeing his family members, just lets us know it’s really more than art, and that’s really why we named it ‘More Than Art,’” Rosetta said.