While protestors marched through the streets, eight artists made their voices heard with spray paint and brushes. The sentiment, however, was the same: Black Lives Matter.
Spirit Walls: Black AF Edition brought local, Black talent together last weekend to create an inspiring piece on the side of Spirit at 51st Street in Lawrenceville.
Lead by Camerin “Camo” Nesbit, the group included Wavy Wednesday, Atiya Jones, Dejouir Brown, Juliandra Jones, Natiq Jalil, Janel Young and Jordan Collington. They worked all weekend, through stormy weather and sunny skies, to transform a 22-foot-by-60-foot cinder block canvas into a colorful statement.
Nesbit composed the concept sketch which reflects the power and resilience of Pittsburgh’s Black community.
“I wanted to showcase each artist’s abilities, but do it in a thoughtful way,” Nesbit says, as a gigantic Black Wonder Women loomed behind him. “I wanted to have them be a part of something that is bigger than all of us.”
Muralist Brian Gonnella started Spirit Walls in 2017 to give the city’s street art scene a boost. This year, to make it more inclusive, he turned the platform over entirely to Black artists. Typically, project funds are raised through local sponsors, but the pandemic forced Gonnella and co-organizer Jerome “Chu” Charles to launch a GoFundMe campaign.
They surpassed their $5,000 goal within days, and also received a private donation of supplies, putting all the money in the artists’ pockets.
The mural will stay up for at least a year.
Juliandra Jones, a self-taught artist from Las Vegas, immediately joined the BLM movement when she moved to Pittsburgh. Spirit Walls is her second mural job.
“It’s fun,” she says. “I love it and I want to do more.”
There are several BLM mural projects set for Homestead’s Carrie Furnaces and the Fiasco Art Center in Observatory Hill.
In addition to beautifying the city with public art, the Fiasco project will serve as a classroom of sorts for up-and-coming Black mural artists. One wall at the center will be used as a practice space where they can experiment and try out different techniques under the tutelage of established muralists.