Takiya Jones of Alexandria is making a statement with the first mural she has ever painted.
“This piece is called ‘Unity,'” said the 26-year-old. “It will glow in the dark at night and have LED lights.”
The mural is part of the newest art installation on the Desoto Street side of the old Weiss & Goldring building in downtown Alexandria. It is owned by the City of Alexandria. Jones and other local artists were doing live paintings on the iconic wall during Alex RiverFete. It was a chance for artists to showcase their style and vision. The community was encouraged to come out and watch.
“There is a lot going on in the community and I feel unity is what we need,” said Jones. “I want to show people there is no limit to art and what you can do.”
“We were excited to have artists that were so ready and willing,” said Mary Kathryn Merrill, customer service representative at Kinetix Solutions who is heading the project in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. “All are local artists from right here in Alexandria.”
Lili Hair was busy painting “The Heart of Louisiana.”
“We’re right where we need to be,” she said of Alexandria as she painted. Her mural will be glow in the dark as well.
This is also her first mural. Merrill was the one who reached out to her about being part of the project. The Arts Council of Central Louisiana had issued a call looking for artists to paint the new murals.
Not only could people watch, but they could also lend a hand in creating one of the murals. RiverFete visitors were encouraged to leave handprints, baby hand or feet prints – or even pet pawprints on the wall as part of the “Share the Love” project.
Merrill and Sandie Flynn Buller, public relations specialists with the City of Alexandria, said they wanted to see a couple of murals with which the public could interact while taking photos.
One mural is of an umbrella with rain falling around it. Once it was finished people were taking photos pretending to hold the umbrella while they took photos to post on social media.
“Community. Culture. Connection. That’s what this art installation is about,” said Buller.
The old murals were taken down before Alex RiverFete to make way for the new blank boards for artists to paint.
The move drew negative reactions on social media. Some thought the murals were painted over or discarded thus disrespecting the local artists who painted them.
One of the new artists had primed the wall white Friday night only to show up Saturday morning to find someone painted a purple smiley face with buck teeth on it. Fortunately, Buller said the murals that were already in progress were not vandalized.
Buller said they were expecting some controversy since the old murals were such an iconic part of downtown Alexandria where people would take family photos, prom photos, etc., but they weren’t expecting it such negativity to this extent, said Buller.
The old murals are being housed in the old Weiss & Goldring building, said Merill. The old murals are being housed in the old Weiss & Goldring building. The city plans to preserve them and possibly display them elsewhere, said Buller.
“We just want to see them continue to live,” said Merrill. The old murals were never intended to be permanent since it was painted on particleboard and they have weathered over time, reiterated Merrill and Buller.
As with the old murals, it’s very possible that these new ones will be taken down next year to make room for new ones, said Merrill. And it will be a continuous process.
“Art is ever changing,” she said. “We’re letting everyone in the community have their turn at the wall.”
This article originally appeared on Alexandria Town Talk: New murals showcase artists’ vision, style at Alex RiverFete