By Kia O. Moore
The Historic West End was left reeling after the mass shooting that took place last month on Beatties Ford Road. Families lost loved ones when shots rang out at a nighttime block party on Sunday, June 21 after first responders attended to a hit-and-run incident. The outpouring of mourners that came the following days erected make-shift memorials and marched together for the fallen and to speak out against violence. The community was searching for a way to shift the energy from negativity to something positive. Now, creatives connected to the westside have stepped in to recognize the lives lost while bringing beauty to a community dealing with trauma. They have brought two murals to Beatties Ford Road in the past month and are looking to do more.
Ricky Singh is one of the creatives that helped to organize a collective of individuals seeking to beautify the Historic West End and uplift the spirit of the community. Singh worked on the Uptown Black Lives Matter window murals before the mass shooting happened in his neighborhood. He was inspired to bring that collective art mentality to Beatties Ford Road to commemorate the lives lost at the block party on a more long-term basis.
Singh jumped into action after the shooting and feverishly searched for property owners on the westside that would provide a wall for a mural. He found it at a wall located next to Niki’s Food Shop at 2200 Beatties Ford Road. He pulled in creatives that he worked with on the Black Lives Matter project. Thanks to the property owner, the artists had a lift to reach the high wall and spray paint to bring the message of “Beatties Ford Strong” to the community. Historic West End residents came by in support to watch the art go up.
While Singh and friends were working on the first Historic West End mural, the community was working to find a location for another mural. Singh and his artistic collaborators connected with the Historic West End Partners and For the Struggle, Inc. about this new mural project. Input from the community was a big part of the new mural. There was an outpouring of support from the community expressed through donations of cans upon cans of spray paint. Corporate support came onboard from Lowes. The home improvement store gave $17,000 worth of in-kind donations through Lowes gift cards to help provide supplies.
With the second location being lower to the ground, the community members also provided support by putting paint to wall along with the artists. The second mural is located on the other side of the building where the Rosa Parks Farmers Market is hosted (2020 Beatties Ford Road). For those community members not painting, they were among the first to bring refreshments to the artists working in the hot summer sun.
A collective of ten artists came together to put up the second mural. The design was a creative expresion of the words “West End.” Each individual letter was painted in each artist’s unique style. The artists that contributed were:
Artist kingcarla teamed up with Infamous Kiddo on the “W” to blend her style of text-based art with illustrative art. For kingcarla, the rich history of the Historic West End is something to be celebrated and she saw this mural as a way to do that. This mural was her first foray into bringing her text-based art to a public wall.
Artists DeNeer Davis contributed her colorful freehand style to the letter “D.” She encourages the community to take a close look at the mural to see the messages within each letter. Davis put the message of “liberation” in her design. Davis said including a message of liberation was her way of telling the community to act on the need to free themselves from the negativity of the past.
Just as the mass shooting is a negative cloud that hovers over the narrative of what makes up the West End, other negative headlines bring down the community too. But, the positive messages in the mural and the involvement of the community in supporting these public acts of beauty is bringing a new narrative to Beatties Ford Road. It is a narrative of unity and beautification.
Singh and Davis say that this is only the beginning of the mural projects coming to the Historic West End. Singh says a collective of about 75 creatives have come together and taken an interest in beautifying the westside. Singh and kingcarla recognized that the West End lacks public art like communities such as North Davidson and South End. Singh and other creatives feel that the West End deserves the artistic treatment too and they plan to make that happen with the support of the community.
Be sure to visit the recent Historic West End murals and grab your photos.