While the violence that occurred at the site of 2013's Street Art Festival is deplorable, it is saddening to see that GRTC is closing the site of these murals to the public as a result. Partly because of these murals, Richmond is ranked No. 2 in the world for street art. This ranking helps many Richmonders feel proud of our city, building culture and community amongst artists and city dwellers.
As art teachers in the Richmond Public Schools, we recently saw this power of community firsthand as we led two groups of students on a field trip to the bus depot. Community leaders City Councilman Jon Baliles, artists Patience Salgado, Ed Trask, Hamilton Glass, education volunteer Heather Paoloni, several parents and Virginia Commonwealth University volunteers rearranged their schedules to be with us. Through intentional action through art, we introduced a group of first-graders to a group of eighth-graders, in an effort to collaborate and build connections between our two school communities. That sunny and cold November morning was dedicated to engaging our students in dialogue, art-making and community building.
There are other art teachers like us who also have used the space as a classroom, and many other contributing artists and organizers who have carved out their time to meet student groups on-site. This amazing space should continue to be celebrated and function as a gathering space for learning. As residents of Richmond we should all make the choice to view this unfortunate setback as a teachable moment in our city's evolution. In light of negative recent events, let us refocus on the good that has come out of the art created at the festival since in September. This mural project is a visual narrative of the power of transformation, through story and image. It is a document of not only the surface appearance of walls being changed but more importantly, of individual lives transformed, as documented in the "Light of Human Kindness" mural. Acts of violence should not stop us from the good we try to do in the world.
Julie Crowder, art teacher
William Fox Elementary School
Kirstie Hein Sadler, art teacher
Binford Middle School