By: Isabelle Hajek, Samuel Weinmann, & Sankofa Benzo
For as long as humanity has existed, so has art. We started on cave walls, images displayed to the world; eventually, beauty became a thing to be owned and not shared, housed within walls instead of upon them. Community art is a return to form allowing art’s beauty and message to be shared with the world.
Katro Storm x Willis K. Stetson Branch Library
A mural can be seen as a reflection of oneself, a community, or the people that inspire it. The colorful mural that is displayed across the Willis K. Stetson Branch Library, is a culmination of the latter. Intended to highlight the library tucked away in a strip of stores, it now serves as a source of pride for the neighborhood and inspiration.
Katro Storm dedicated 500 hours to the project. It serves as an inspiration to children in the neighborhood, they can aspire to be anyone that they choose. Including the faces of people who came from signal to children that they have no limits or bounds; that where they’re from does not deny them success.
Each letter represents a category: R for people who were first; E for entertainers; A for athletes; and D for divas. The notable Black figures depicted in the mural are from New Haven and the Dixwell neighborhood; many national figures are depicted as well.
The pantheon of figures includes Constance Baker Motley, Miles Davis, Charles Twyman, Michael Jackson and Ella B. Scantlebury.
Diane Brown, the branch librarian, oversaw the creation of this mural and is also included. Having grown up in the area, she serves as a tangible mentor who can offer advice and guidance. As a career woman and community leader, she exemplifies the mural’s message.
The colorful mural shines brightly in the community as a beacon of positivity and encouragement to Black youth.
Michael DeAngelo x Straight Up Art
A community is interconnected. There is a certain reciprocal nature to the world we live in. In the time of a pandemic, this is more apparent than ever. It is very easy to become detached and fall victim to the moral stance of individualism, not recognizing the humanity of others.
Michael DeAngelo, in collaboration with Straight Up Art, seeks to provide a view of the greater picture of our community and by extension our world. Located at 44 Orange Street, adjacent to the Ninth Square residences, sits “Color Balance”; this mural depicts a Connecticut transit worker and healthcare worker. These figures are based on Dave Higgins, a transit worker, and Michelle Salazar, a surgery resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital. This choice of the subject came from DeAngelo’s insistence on showcasing members of the community while rendering them in a way where all nurses and transit workers would be able to identify with them.
Recognizing residents from the community and having them displayed in such a grandiose fashion, livens up the community and brings pleasure to everyone who sees it. They are seen, acknowledged and valued.
Public art is by the people, for the people and seeks to appreciate the community and their efforts; this piece is no different. Even though we live in a fast-paced world, clamoring from one moment to the next, public art urges us to hasten and bask in the community and all that is around us. Coming together and sharing ourselves, our passions and our “colors” creates a beautiful canvas piece akin to DeAngelo’s.
David de la Mano x Site Projects New Haven
How do we remember the history of people who came before us? How do we remember the trailblazers of the past and honor their memory? In collaboration with Site Projects New Haven, a non-profit organization that commissions artists to enhance the cultural heritage and diversity of New Haven, David de la Mano, an internationally renowned Spanish artist, helped memorialize the history of New Haven. Located in the Ninth Square at 33 Crown Street, is an expansive mural to commemorate William Lanson.
William Lanson was a Black entrepreneur, engineer and leader in the Black community during the 19th century. He was an integral part of two construction projects that led to the success of New Haven during the Industrial Revolution: the extensions of Long Wharf and the Farmington Canal.
The design was birthed due to the fact that there are no existing pictures of William Lanson. The birds are shown carrying people over that landscape of New Haven during the 19th century. The entanglement of the vines and branches signifies the obstacles and adversity that William Lanson and the community had to overcome.
Immortalizing the prominent figures of New Haven and its history is an ongoing task and de la Mano’s beautiful mural is another addition to the gallery.
Ben Keller x Good Nature Market
On the side of New Haven’s Good Nature Market, on 44 Whitney Avenue, is an expansive and colorful mural, depicting a variety of different scenes using a gorgeous palette of orange and pink: “Depths of Perception,”
On the left side of the mural are two dancers, with the dancer on the left dipping the dancer on the right–who appears to be a ballerina.
On the right of the dancers is a large and colorful flower, followed by a trumpet player in the middle. On the very right side of the painting, appears to be a potter in the process of making a vase.
Located on the bottom right of the mural is an Instagram tag: @benkellerct. Ben Keller, the artist who painted the mural, has been painting his entire life, and according to his website, the activity has “transformed into his lifeblood.”
On Keller’s Instagram, he showcases his work, with many pieces using the same color palette to portray hyperrealistic portraits. Keller’s website describes how he was deeply influenced by graffiti artist Barry McGee, and has since then been experimenting with spray paint.
Keller “has always been deeply intrigued by human form and nature… transforming this subject to canvas causes beauty to collide with the industrial,” according to his website.
Overall, the scene is lively, colorful and portrays a vibrant community, fitting for the market it was painted on. This mural is one of dozens of pieces by Keller, who has been painting murals throughout Connecticut for years. To see more of Keller’s murals and other works, visit his website here, at benkellerart.com
Cedar Hill Underpass Mural, New Haven Conn.
Cedar Hill is a neighborhood in New Haven Conn., and as passersby enter the neighborhood, they are greeted by a sprawling and colorful mural that greets them into the area.
“Welcome to Cedar Hill Community,” the mural reads, with vibrant colors coupled with images of maps and compasses throughout the mural.
The mural is located at the entrance of Cedar Hill, New Haven, on the concrete wall of the underpass that lays directly below Interstate 91.
According to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, this piece took more than a year to plan, and is funded entirely by the city’s anti-blight Livable City Initiative (LCI), which is an agency that involves other city agencies and organizations to improve the quality of living for New Haven residents.
The Arts Council said that this mural was “spearheaded by neighborhood champions Camille Ansley and Kenya Adams-Martin” in 2018, and that with funding from the LCI, two artists worked tirelessly every day to paint and finish the mural before the cold weather took hold that fall.
These two artists were from A&A Productions, and preferred to remain anonymous for their work in crafting the mural.
“We’re doing something for the community that hopefully they’ll enjoy… we want the community to embrace it,” said one of the artists.
Adea x Community Baptist Church
Kwado Adea and son Kwasi Adea created the Edward Alexander Bouchet layered triptic on the street facing brick wall of the Community Baptist Church in September of 2021, completed on Bouchet’s birthday, the 15th.
Bouchet was the first African American doctoral recipient in the United States, graduating from Yale in the 1870 Valedictorian Class. This fact is inscribed in the mural in addition to “Born in New Haven, Died in New Haven” and his years of life.
The elder Adea felt that Bouchet was the role model in science that he deserved growing up and wanted to provide the historic figure and the community with the representation they deserved.
Stylistically, the mural is meant to mirror the work of Bouchet. His doctorate in physics, only 1 of 6 in the western hemisphere at the time, was focused on light and light refraction and fittingly, his image is painted in three different color palettes.
This mural is only just down the street from a mural of Maya Angelou which had been painted seven years prior.
Alex Fournier x Orange Street Promenade
Straight up Art “strives to improve ownership values by making Downtown New Haven an internationally-competitive urban environment in which to live, work, learn and play,” as explained in their mission statement.
As a part of their 2020 Mural Season, Alex Fournier painted a mural of towers outside of the 9th Square Market: “The World We Left Behind.” The clean line-work and pop colors are obvious odes to his tattooist background.
Fournier said he went “from skin to wall,” in creating a collage of buildings ranging in architectural styles in an attempt to catalog and illustrate the architecture and society of history-past.
The horizon of his piece is near indiscernible as the whispering cloud, or perhaps smoke, cover the top third of the mural, their black and white curves in contrast to the linework of the buildings. The art takes on a dream-like quality though, as upon closer inspection, one can see the intentionally imperfect lines quivering together as if the viewer may only have but a few moments to watch as the scene threatens to fade.
Straight up art is now accepting applications for their 2022 Mural Season.
Geometric Mural x High School in the Community
“Leadership, social justice, public policy and service” is the focus of the High School in the Community, one of the magnet schools in the New Haven school choice network.
Located along the external East Wall of the school is this Geometric mural. An experiment in perspective and shapes the piece pops out at passers by only to be punctuated by a sign declaring the school a “small school for students who want to do big things.”
The litany of colors included in the mural coupled with the bright red heart that looks about ready to leap off the building should come at no surprise. The school was founded to “address racial issues directly,” and has since expanded its social justice roots and instilled them in their students.
Art is a common outlet for students. In February, in direct response to gun violence students were seeing in their community and greater society, students from peer led groups that focused on visual arts and social justice worked together with artist Kwadwo Adae to create a mural located on the second floor inside the school.
Dooly-O Jackson x A-Z Market
The A-Z Market, once the Orchard Market, is the canvas for this immortalization of Maya Angelou following her death in 2014.
Angelou was a Black poet and writer who exposed the realities of the Black experience and the female experience as they intersected and appeared in her life. Although most recognizably known for her “Where the Caged Bird Sings,” in popular culture, Angelou’s writings are many in number and even greater in influence. This is a truth that graffiti artist Dooly-O Jackson recognized when spearheading the art project.
The original piece was once far more colorful than it currently exists. Vibrant graffiti style art flanked Angelou’s likeness framed by her partial quotes: “We may encounter many defeats, But we must not be defeated…” and “When you know better…”
Eight years later only her face is discernible as even her name and years of life have been painted over gray. Along-top of the portrait, the sustained outline of “MARKET” is immortalized, left from the “Orchard Market” sign that used to adorn the trim.