Photos by Jamie Alexander
A project that was first conceptualized in 2015 is finally off the ground. The Northwest Neighborhood Alliance, led by chairperson Rafe Buckner, has begun a collaboration with Aaron Kizer to create a timeline of African art meant to celebrate unity and the Black community.
“We wanted it [to be] local as much as we could, and Aaron is probably the biggest artist here,” Buckner said.
An over 600-foot long and 60-foot high wall separates Kendall Perkins Park and an adjacent neighborhood, and the mural will be created in phases along the wall with Kizer working on the initial section and then collaborating with other artists who will paint the concluding panels.
Kizer said they began the first phase in November 2020 so that people could have faith that it was actually happening.
“Five years of work gives a visual,” Kizer said, but added that to garner interest from other artists, they needed to begin the mural so others could see it really is going.
Bucker said the goal is to have the finished wall mural by 2025, although the Alliance hopes it will be earlier.
The first section celebrates ancient Africa, and is represented by Egyptian portraits. Kizer said the concept and idea were developed before beginning the massive undertaking, which allows for a cohesion to the whole wall.
“The concepts were already decided by those it was representing,” he said. “Everything on there, I was given. I could change the layout but [had to] stay true to the images.”
What drew him to this project was the history of the wall, which was originally built for segregation. Kizer’s two children are half Cambodian and he realized that there are no representations of them or their culture locally. He is hoping that this mural can be more than a painting to those represented.
“That wall will represent history, and the history on it is important,” Kizer said. And while he will not be the sole artist working on the mural, he will stay involved because of his access to items that others may not have access to through his experience in the art world and construction world.
Kizer said that his takeaway is not the beginning of the mural that he has done, but rather the work he hopes will be done in the future.
“It’s the tail end that extends metaphorically for Owensboro,” he said. “How does the future take the idea and progress further? How do we do it to teach each other?”
Being part of something this powerful and thinking about what people can do to better society for the future is why Kizer said he wanted to be part of this.
“I may not see the fruits of the labor, but my kids will,” he said. This future thinking is what draws him to do one project over another as he gets older. He ponders, “What will I leave behind for my family and their kids?”
The wall is unique, and needs to be promoted as a tourist attraction, Buckner believes, and hopes that when people begin traveling again, it is one of the attractions that people visit in Owensboro, since it is “basically on the doorstep of downtown.”
The alliance is seeking applicants to contribute their painting talents to the mural, and can email firstname.lastname@example.org, if interested. Funding for the wall is also important, and those interested in donating can contact Adrienne Carrico at 270-687-8561.
Update: On January 6th, the mural was damaged, but the Owensboro community is determined to press on after the mural was vandalized.
Check out how community members gathered at Kendall Perkins Park Saturday to highlight the ultimate goal of the project.