For years, an abandoned, unfinished mural has stood near the intersection of Millwood and Gervais, a reminder of the obstacle that urban communities everywhere face. However, a group of three artists in partnership with One Columbia hope to bring the mural and community back to life by refinishing the wall with a mural that will speak to the optimistic future of the community.
“I was just driving I saw the wall that needed some finishing,” says local artist Cedric Umoja. “I just wondered if it was ever going to get done and who started it and that type of thing.”
From there Umoja and others at One Columbia gathered information about the existing mural and how to transform the existing wall into something new and fresh for the community. Umoja contacted fellow artists Brandon Donahue (Nashville, TN) and Karl Zurflüh (Charleston, SC) to collaborate on this project and a shared vision of growth and revitalization was born.
“We came together and said that this was really about the idea of community, but what does that mean? What does that word mean to you, visually speaking?” said Umoja.
For Umoja, community cannot exist without the promise of the future. His portion of the mural is a commentary on the necessity of helping the public grow and prosper now to ensure that it can continue. Zurflüh took a different approach, coming from a graphwriting background, he broke up the word “community” into “commune” and “unity” in order to break it down into its purest definition. Donahue used the imagery of an insect from African folktales, taking the perspective of growth and rebirth.
This mural, which will bridge that gap between high art and street art, has the potential to be a jumping off point for the visual arts community of Columbia; there has been a growing trend in cities around the country of holding “open walls” and inviting street artists to create murals to enhance the existing urban landscape.
“It’s happening everywhere except Columbia, and I think there’s a lot of wall space for it to happen and grow the city in the right way,” says Umoja of Columbia’s potential to follow in the footsteps of other cities.
“I think that it’s going to elevate the quality of life for people that live there, not just the city, but in the community too,” says Umoja “I think that is what we as artist try to do, a lot of us are trying to make people think but we are mostly just trying to enrich people’s lives and educate them from different perspectives.”
Though One Columbia initiative is funding a portion of the project, it does not cover the entire projected cost of the mural. The artists are also responsible for prepping the wall, supplying their own materials, and other logistical expenses. In addition to the labor costs of the three muralists, a filmmaker and photographer who will be documenting and archiving the process will also need to be compensated. Unfortunately, these factors are getting in the way of this project being realized.
Those interested in supporting the Millwood Mural Project can make a contribution at www.gofundme.com/millwoodmural.