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Asheville’s Pack Square gets a new look: Black Lives Matter mural? A collective effort downtown
Saturday, 01 August 2020 15:07

From Staff Reports

Asheville’s Black Lives Matter mural, touted as “dynamic” by its backers, was installed from North Pack Square to South Pack Square in the area widely considered to be the heart of downtown on July 19.

The effort was led by Asheville City Councilwoman Sheneika Smith, in collaboration with community groups and leaders.

The temporary installation had received council’s prior approval — and mural planning and painting was organized in partnership with the Asheville Area Arts Council and its executive director, Katie Cornell.

The project was completed by 20-plus local artists and was financed by individual donors and in-kind business support to cover the cost of supplies, maintenance and artist honorariums.

The mural’s location was at the site of the recent BLM protests in May and June — and it holds an extensive history. 

The mural surrounds the 75-foot Vance Monument, which was concealed with a shroud in early July while a joint task force chosen by council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ develops recommendations for the removal and/or repurposing of the Civil War monument.

According to the Asheville Area Arts Council, the BLM mural project “hopes to promote racial healing and communal reconciliation, while galvanizing solidarity and celebrating a collective movement towards addressing systemic racial issues locally.”

Each individual letter in “Black Lives Matter,” according to an release by Communications Manager Steph Wisnet, “serves to spark conversations about race, inequality, injustice and privilege among locals and visitors alike.”

Wisnet added, “We had the privilege to speak with local artist Joseph Pearson during our Member Program: Conversation With the Artist on July 8. 

“Pearson moved to Asheville in 2015 and is an accomplished national and international award-winning painter specializing in portraits, murals and figure-drawing who served as the lead artist for the word ‘Black’ in the mural,” Wisnet noted.

Wisnet quoted Pearson as saying, “Art freeze-frames certain issues and points of view, but it also offers a different perspective — an artist’s perspective —on  whatever is going on. 

“Because it is visual, it forces folks, hopefully, to stop and spend enough time in front of the work to really think about whatever it is that the artist is saying. 

“My work, in particular, has always been my form of communication…It doesn’t matter if folks agree with me, but I do want to evoke a response from people whether it be intellectual or emotional… I want to know that they are engaged in the work and that they are thinking about the work. The hope is — depending on what they take away from it — to act on that, and to take it back into their communities and back into their families, and in that way, art can affect change,” Pearson said.

Wisnet added, “We encourage you to walk along the installation, stopping at each letter to listen, learn, connect, and discover the stories told by the artists. Together we must understand the history of injustice and continue to participate in the difficult conversations and ask the difficult questions. To view the individual letters and learn more about the participating artists listed below, please visit”

Following are the lead artists in the mural:

• (Black) Joseph Pearson

• (Lives) Jenny Pickens

• (Matter) Marie Cochran 

Following are the supporing artists in the mural:

• (B) Dustin Spagnola

• (L) Jas Washington

• (A) Autumn Nelson

• (C) Ovidio Acevedo

• (K) James Love

• (L) Michael Barnard

• (I) Walter Dickerson

• (V) CJ Randall

• (E) Beth Ivey

• (S) Timothy Davidson

• (M) LaKisha Blount

• (A) Rahkie Mateen

• (T) Trey Miles

• (T) Kela K. Hunt

• (E) Broderick Flanigan

• (R) Faustine McDonald

Additional volunteer artists included Michelle Acevedo, Manuela Acevedo, Joseph Crimmins, Stephanie Flores, Nastassia Hearst, Ethan Hunt, Hasana Hunt, Kaleb Hunt, Trazon Mason, Sanii Thomas, Pamela Washington and Arabelle Watters.



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