Celebrate local artists and enjoy a walk in downtown Renton during the virtual Black Lives Matter art walk.
Using the Visit Renton smart phone app, folks can learn more about 15 Black artists with work in various shops and public spaces throughout downtown currently on display. Residents can also view a community art piece that will be displayed at Wyldwood Creative starting in October. Almost all of the art is for sale as well.
During an interview on Renton Live!, BLM Art Walk Curator Fancy Smith said she was approached by the Renton Arts Commission after leading a youth Black Lives Matter march in Renton, about working together on a Black Lives Matter piece, resulting in the art walk. Visit Renton describes the tour as a display of art that intentionally serves to break negative stereotypes in the Black community, and embody Black excellence.
Fancy explained to Renton Live! that she had a graphic designer put out a call for artists, and many downtown businesses wanted to join in and host the artwork.
The art comes in a variety of messages and mediums, all by Black artists: Aramis Hamer, ArisTree Williams, Bruce McIntyre, Charde’ Brown, Charles Conner, Chris Coleman, Curtis Prescott Jr., EssThaArtist, Jonarra Swanson, Kilam Tel Aviv, Kristin Greer, LeShawn Gamble, Meris Mitchell and Simone Joshua. Menvra Labs worked with community activist Michael B. Main on a video presentation filmed at the steps of city hall, that can also be viewed on the BLM Art Walk tour in the Visit Renton app.
Artist, Educator and Renton resident Bruce McIntyre is featured for his work on a fire hydrant in downtown Renton, part of the fire hydrant art project for the South Renton Neighborhood. McIntyre worked with his son Vaughn to create Black Lives Matter inspired hydrant art.
McIntyre said he got to work on the BLM hydrant after the killing of George Floyd— the experience made him think of the many instances of racism he’d experience in his life.
“I was pretty angry and trying to figure out what I was going to do, because I couldn’t stay silent,” he said.
That moment led to a conversation about racism with his son, and from that conversation came working together on the Black Lives Matter design, which includes a black fist on one side and Black Lives Matter on the other.
The fist on the hydrant is a tracing of McIntyre’s own first. The BLM initials each have their own meaning, most rooted in the histories of Africa and slavery: the B is a Baobab tree, also known as “The Tree of Life,” that can live up to 5,000 years; The L includes African animals, a tall giraffe, a crouching rhino and three birds representing McIntyre’s family; the M includes snakes, water, and the outline of Africa. McIntyre said it all came together well, even the parts he didn’t expect: the numbers painted on the hydrant’s arm are required for firefighters to identify the model, but for McIntyre he said it worked out well, as it could also be interpreted as reference the practice of branding African people during slavery.
When he finished the project, McIntyre said it felt good to create something that could spark interest in the movement against racism. As McIntyre took photos of the hydrant located near the transit center, he said a bus driver came up and asked him about the fist. He then told the driver to see the other side of the hydrant where the BLM was painted. For him, the public art piece is a conversation starter.
McIntyre has a master’s in Raku, a Japanese pottery, and he’s worked as an artist all over the world, growing up in New York and spending time in Europe. He said from that experience he knows there’s a lot of good people in the world, but he also said returning to the U.S. is always where he experiences the most blatant racism. He thinks as people genuinely work to learn more about other cultures during the current movement, there will be times they get things incorrect, but it will be a learning process.
“Racism is everywhere, things have gotten a lot better but there’s still a long way to go. Growth happens when you’re out of your comfort zone, and a lot of people are ready to get out of their comfort zone, I’ve seen it in the last five months and that’s what gives me hope that change is gonna happen. It may not happen in my lifetime, but it’s going to get a lot better,” McIntyre said.
While the BLM art walk also makes a powerful statement, McIntyre said he encourages folks to go visit as a way of also simply supporting local artists. At the end of the day, it’s all about the community coming together, he said.
McIntyre’s artwork and pottery can be found at Clay by Bruce on Facebook. More information on the artists, and ways to purchase and view more art from the many artists involved, is also available in the virtual tour, which is expected to stay up in Renton for at least a month.