After Emerge Gallery and Fine Arts Center received damage to its storefront after the protests that took place in Uptown Greenville on May 31 following the death of George Floyd, the gallery recently reached out to the community, asking local artists to come forward and paint murals on the plywood covering the gallery’s windows and doors.
Local artists from around the Greenville community worked on murals on the storefront of the gallery in the week following the protest, completing the artworks on June 12. Colorful murals cover the plywood which now sit on the windows and doors of the gallery, which it shared on its social media account.
Sarah Lazure, marketing and finance coordinator for Emerge, said eight artists worked on the murals outside of the gallery, starting on June 2.
“The staff at Emerge wanted to give Black artists and artists of color a platform to share their voice and express their thoughts. We let each artist present their own ideas for their panels. We have a variety of imagery on the panels in the front and back of the building. Each one is an expression of the artist, showing love and peace, strength, memory, change and activism,” Lazure said.
The staff at Emerge was very pleased with the outcome of the murals, Lazure said, and plans to keep the murals up until mid-July.
Lazure said she hopes to see more murals around Greenville, and believes the community can support local artists, like the ones who painted the storefront murals. She said the community can support these artists by directly buying their art and donating to causes which will financially assist them.
Paula Jordan-Mayo, an ECU alumna who graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree in Illustration, said she painted one of the murals outside the gallery using acrylic and wall paint.
“I painted the Martin Luther King (Jr.) one (mural). I was there (Emerge) for two days, the first day I was there for a couple hours. I did the outline first, so that was about two hours. The next day, which was a Saturday, I was out there from 10:30 a.m. until about 5:30 (p.m.), for about seven hours,” Jordan-Mayo said.
Jordan-Mayo heard about the opportunity to paint the murals after Emerge staff members reached out to her over Facebook, she said. Jordan-Mayo had been an intern at Emerge two years ago, and said she was happy to take the opportunity.
The murals on the plywood shed light on the artists' work, Jordan-Mayo said, and she believes people should come check out the art.
“I think that people should check out these murals, not only for the cause and for awareness, but because I feel like art provokes emotion. It has value and emotion you really can’t describe from anything else. So, when people see these murals, and then think about what’s going on, maybe it can bring them a certain emotion that everyone else is collectively feeling,” Jordan-Mayo said.
Raymond Henderson is an ECU alumnus whose artwork is displayed around the community at places like Pitt Street Brewing Company.
Henderson said he painted a couple murals on the storefront, the one of the couple holding each other on the door and the two black and white murals facing each other on the windows next to the door. He said he worked on the murals over the course of four days and used acrylic paint.
“With everything going on in America, COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement going on, I was wanting to make the art for my personal use, and then when I heard about Emerge, I thought it was a great opportunity to display it (his art),” Henderson said.
Since the pandemic started, Henderson said he has had more down time to create art, and painting the murals on the gallery storefront was therapeutic for him.
Henderson said the murals received a lot of attention as he and the other artists worked on them outside of the gallery.
“I feel like they (the murals) shine light on a bad situation. While I was painting, a lot of people stopped and paid attention to the mural, so I feel like it draws attention to the gallery along with our local artists in the community as well,” Henderson said.
Jun S. Vasconcelos, a Greenville based artist, heard about the opportunity to paint the murals from Emerge’s Instagram, his wife Bonnie Vasconcelos said.
Vasconcelos painted two murals, one of colorful flowers on one of the doors and the other being the Black Lives Matter hand in the alley, Bonnie Vasconcelos said.
“The one (mural) in the front of the store was to bring life and color in contrast to the events and the one in the alley incorporated the Black Lives Matter hand and that all the colors are connected,” Bonnie Vasconcelos said.
Spray paint and acrylic paint markers to make Vasconcelos’ murals, which are the mediums he has worked with for the 20 years he has been an artist, Bonnie Vasconcelos said.
Vasconcelos took the opportunity to paint his murals because he wanted to support the Black Lives Matter movement and share his work, Jun S. Vasconcelos said.
“They (community members) should visit and take time to reflect on the past, present and look towards the future,” Bonnie Vasconcelos said.
More information on these artists can be found on their Instagram's, @neapaulatan, @raymondgarfield and @junsvasconcelos and Emerge’s website.