As the weekend began, a rough sketch of the word VOTE appeared on the side of a building on Dyer Street in PVD, waiting to be filled with color. This is The Avenue Concept’s latest mural project, which they developed in partnership with the Wexford Innovation Center, located at the end of PVD’s Pedestrian Bridge.
A new mural appears on this wall every year, and Nick Platzer, who runs The Avenue Concept’s mural program, explained the thinking behind its latest design. “There’s a lot going on in the news,” he said. “A lot of people are feeling a lot of ways and experiencing a lot of emotions. What’s the single thing that everyone can do right now? Vote.”
And so the mural was born to be a gentle command, a powerful reminder and an incredible showcase for four talented local artists of color. Passersby gathered over the weekend to watch those artists fill in the rough sketch, while volunteers helped them register to vote. “It was the perfect coming together of everything that’s going on right now,” Platzer said.
The four artists chosen to work on the mural have worked with The Avenue Concept in the past. The V was painted by Kendel Joseph, aka Lucid Traveler. The O was painted by RISD professor Jess Brown, aka The Lady J. The T was painted by AGONZA, who also is responsible for the self portraits on the back of the Weybosset facade in Downcity. And the E was painted by the artist ABOVE, who has painted the Dyer Street wall before. “He’s a local graffiti artist and veteran,” Platzer explained. “Because of his military background, he provides another viewpoint.”
The mural’s O, fittingly, is a bit subversive. Four people appear in it holding signs. One of the signs has a QR code on it that leads to the Rhode Island voter registration site. Modern smart phones automatically recognize QR codes, so when people take pictures of the mural with their phones, they’ll receive a suggestion that they follow the link to the voter registration site. “We’re hijacking people’s pictures of the wall,” Platzer said.
The mural is just one part of the planned project. The second part will be a life-sized, cut-out wooden portrait of the late John Lewis in his overcoat, walking out of the mural toward viewers. Platzer said he hopes this detail further encourages people to pull out their phones to take some pictures.
“The idea is to get people excited,” Platzer said. “Get them into it and then get them involved.”
The Avenue Concept’s new mural appears at the Point225 Innovation Center near the intersection of Dyer and Ship streets. A reminder: August 18 is the deadline to register for a mail-in ballot for Rhode Island’s September 8 statewide primary (elections.ri.gov/voting/applymail.php). Do what the wall says!
See Motif’s upcoming Fall Guide for coverage of the primary elections.