January 8

The Mural Project

MadArt Seattle’s new series brings powerful visuals to its facade.

If you find yourself walking on Western Avenue, be sure to make your way to MadArt Seattle where you’ll find Rae and her raised fist and black cat backpack.

The mural’s subject—depicted full of life, hope, and power—is the young daughter of artist Barry Johnson. His work is the inaugural piece for the studio’s newest program: The Mural Project.

“The development of the mural project was directly in response to two things: the global pandemic that required us to close our doors for an unexpected and extended period of time and more importantly—in light of the strengthened national effort for racial justice—the recognition that we needed to and wanted to create more opportunities for artists, specifically underrepresented BIPOC artists, in our community,” said Emily Kelly, director of MadArt Seattle.

“This project provides us with an opportunity to engage and support artists that are working on a two-dimensional surface, expanding our breadth of programming and opening up the possibility of working with artists who have varied forms of making.”

Three questions with artist Barry Johnson

Why did you choose your daughter as your subject for this mural?

I chose my daughter Eva because given how much happened last year, I wanted to start the year on a positive note and point out how the youth truly are the future. She was happy to have been a part of the project and she helped to paint some of the canvas.

Window mural art featuring an African-American girl with messaging about BIPOC awareness with young girl in front holding up a peace sign with her fingers.

How does she feel about being a subject in your work?

She feels happy. I think the main thing she wanted to make sure of is that I captured her likeness. We both paint all the time together, so she was really happy to make it on the canvas in such a big way. Funny thing, she wanted me to paint her with a way more serious look in her face. It took some convincing to let me paint the other image.

What’s the significance of those quotes from Kamala Harris and Missy Elliott?

They speak to the times. Women are everything and it’s critical to ensure their voices are heard loud and clear. The “I’m speaking” is exactly what we’re constantly teaching our daughter about the importance of making sure her voice is heard. Missy has always been a creative juggernaut and remains a source of constant inspiration for me, so the joy comment was right on par with how we need to protect our energy and stay positive. Especially now.

Rae is on view at MadArt Seattle through February 1, 2021, and other murals and artists will be announced soon. You can see more of Barry Johnson’s work on his website.

Story by Ethan Chung and photographs courtesy MadArt Seattle and Barry Johnson.

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle