Instead of celebrating the Fourth of July with the traditional fireworks, Baton Rouge-based art gallery owner Kristen Downing helped organize area artists for a Black Lives Matter mural.
Inspired by other BLM murals created in major cities across the nation, Downing began planning the Baton Rouge mural about a month ago. She initially brushed off requests by Instagram followers for the mural because she didn’t think it was “possible in Louisiana.” But as an artisan and activist, using her voice through art is important to her.
“We want to see a change,” Downing says. “We’re tired of people getting killed because of the color of their skin. If we use our voice right now, we can hopefully get people in office to pass policies to protect our people.”
Downing organized a group of more than a dozen artists with ties to the Capital Region for the project, which they began painting in the parking lot of Boil & Roux over the holiday weekend. Adrian Hammond, with Boil & Roux, sponsored the painting after Downing’s pitch for the mural to be located downtown were rejected.
“I thought that city officials would have helped, but it didn’t happen,” she says. “This was community-driven. The community made sure we got it done.”
She initially had 16 artists onboard for the mural, one for each letter of the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” but because of a few dropouts, a few of the artists doubled up on their letters. Downing kicks off the piece with her B design, which is light teal with faceless brown-skinned faces. They are the faces of Alton Sterling, killed in 2016 in Baton Rouge; Breonna Taylor, killed in her bed earlier this year after Louisville Metro Police Department officers stormed the wrong apartment; George Floyd, also killed earlier this year in Minnesota; among others who were killed by law enforcement.
Read on for the rest of the story, which originally appeared in the July 6 edition of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.