“We not only garden with seeds and plants and flowers, but we garden in our communities with souls and minds and hearts,” Boston artist Ekua Holmes said of the temporary, printed murals that she created with London Parker-McWhorter as part of “Mentoring Murals,” a pilot project from Boston independent public art curators Now + There in partnership with Greater Grove Hall Main Streets and support from Breeze’s Laundromat.
The design features bright sunflowers—inspired by Holmes’s “Roxbury Sunflower Project,” on which she previously collaborated with Parker-McWhorter—as well as the hands of Holmes’s son, children who have participated in the “Roxbury Sunflower Project,” a Black elder, a South Carolina farmer.
An outdoor reception yesterday celebrated the debut of the artworks, titled “Honoring the past, seeding the future,” which are mounted on a 13 by 60-foot wall on the side of Breeze’s Laundromat at 345 Blue Hill Ave. and two nearby shipping containers in Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood. They’re expected to be on view from Sept. 8 to Dec. 7, 2021.
Holmes won the Caldecott Honor in 2016 for illustrating the children’s book “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.” She is vice-chair of the Boston Art Commission and associate director of Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Center for Art and Community Partnerships, managing and coordinating its Sparc! ArtMobile.
Holmes’s “Roxbury Sunflower Project” debuted in the summer of 2018, developing out of her participation in Now + There’s Public Art Accelerator Program, which teaches artists the logistical ins and outs of creating public art here. For her first public art project, Holmes gave out thousands of seeds to fill Roxbury with sunflowers as symbols of Black beauty, resilience, deep roots, and ability to transform problems into something good. She’s continued it annually since—including a major planting on the Huntington Avenue lawn of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts this summer, which is also hosting an exhibition of her art, “Paper Stories, Layered Dreams,” from July 17, 2021, to Jan. 23, 2022.
Parker-McWhorter is a photographer, artist, researcher as well as co-caretaker of United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury Garden.
Holmes and Parker-McWhorter’s Grove Hall mural, Gilbert said, aims “to create the radiant, uplifting pictures of Black youth that they want to see and we can all benefit from experiencing.”
“A lot of our work is focused on youth, our seeds, who we are nurturing and taking care of, and who will take our place,” Holmes said. She hoped the artworks would prompt feelings of “joy and possibility.”
“You can transform a space that might have been neglected,” Parker-McWhorter said. He noted that the neighborhood had suffered from capital flight since a 1967 uprising. “There’s possibility in some of these empty spaces.”
This is the second artwork in the “Mentoring Murals” series, after Paul Goodnight and Larry Pierce’s design, which was on view here this summer. “To amplify the Black mural movement’s past and present in Roxbury and Dorchester,” Now + There writes, “the project builds on the importance of mentorship in maintaining a vibrant Black arts community by inviting artists to team up with a younger artist to create side-by-side works of art on a visible wall in the neighborhood.”
Aug. 12, 2021: Paul Goodnight And Larry Pierce Collaborate On Grove Hall Mural
June 12, 2018: What Happens If You Plant 10,000 Sunflowers At The Heart Of Boston’s Black Community?
Sept. 19, 2018: Checking In On Ekua Holmes’s Blossoming ‘Roxbury Sunflowers Project’
May 15, 2021: Artists To Turn MFA Lawn Into A Garden
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