Mural Arts Month 2018 celebrates dreams, diaspora, justice, and votes

3 minute read

The powers of modern tech will be making their big debut in Philadelphia’s arts scene during this year’s Mural Arts Month, courtesy of composer and producer King Britt and visual artist Joshua Mays.

Along with Philadelphia high-school students, Britt and Mays created the augmented-reality mural Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny, the first of its kind in the city. The mural is a multimedia art and sound installation set up in West Philly’s Conestoga neighborhood and features an original score based on community interviews and sounds created by the young students.

The project is hosted by Mural Arts Philadelphia, the largest public arts program in the country. Fittingly, it was first inspired by a tweet that brought Mays and Britt together for their second collaboration.

Look and listen

“All our approaches to working on this have changed the way we create now,” Britt says. “Musically, I needed to think in a 3D space, and not as a full song but as an experience, walking through the mural instead of just looking at the mural.”

Viewers will download a free app onto their phones and hold the phones horizontally in front of a spot on the mural. This will activate sections that will each have their own visual and musical identity. Britt advises visitors to bring headphones.

“We had a few days gathering found sounds from the neighborhood and school with recorders,” he says. We then turned those sounds into something completely different, which changes your idea of what you know your environment to be into something you never thought it could be.”

Rhythms of the diaspora

Mays and Britt are longtime AfroFuturists, creating their art in the intersection of African culture and technology. “It does describe how to shift perception of African American navigation in the real world through a sci-fi lens,” Britt explains. “Rhythmically thinking about the beats of the youth, beats from past influences and shaping them into more futuristic ideas: so African influences, jazz, trap, and techno.”

'Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny' gets its dedication on October 9 in West Philly. (Photo by Steve Weinik.)
'Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny' gets its dedication on October 9 in West Philly. (Photo by Steve Weinik.)

In that sense, AfroFuturism emphasizes the importance of ancestry and legacy in shaping the destiny and future of the diaspora.

“I want the viewers to leave there in awe of the possibilities that lie before us in this time in our lives,” Britt says.

Portraits of Justice

Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny will feature alongside Portraits of Justice, the product of Mural Arts’s first interdisciplinary fellowship program for previously incarcerated artists. The fellowship, Reimagining Reentry, was sponsored by grant from the Art for Justice Fund and led by artists Jesse Krimes and Russell Craig. They’ve put together a collaborative mural, participatory public art and performances, and a daylong symposium on reimagining the criminal justice system.

Krimes and Craig have both been incarcerated. Krimes spent six years in federal prison on drug charges, after spending a year in pretrial detention. Craig grew up in foster care and spent almost ten years in jail, during which he taught himself to read, write, and draw.

Mural Arts Month starts Wednesday, September 26, 2018, with To the Polls, a pre-election warehouse exhibition, at 448 N. 10th Street from 5 to 8pm. Portraits of Justice opens Friday, October 5, 2018, with a temporal mural by Krimes and Craig and a poetry reading by Reginald Dwayne Betts at Thomas Paine Plaza from 5 to 7pm. Portraits of Justice events will continue through October 25. Dreams, Diasporas, and Destiny opens Tuesday, October 9, 2018, with a dedication event at 5300 Landsdowne Avenue from 4 to 6pm. Tours will also be available throughout the month. For the full schedule of Mural Arts Month events, visit online.

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