Artists Jenny Pickens, Joseph Pearson, and Marie T. Cochran will lead the design and implementation process for a Black Lives Matter mural in Asheville’s central business district.
The street mural will be located in Pack Square, and extend from N. Pack Square to S. Pack Square.
Guided by Councilwoman Sheneika Smith, along with other leaders and local community groups, this project hopes to promote community reconciliation and racial healing while galvanizing solidarity and celebrating a collective movement toward addressing systemic racial issues locally.
“The artists who will put their hands to this street mural represent many untold stories,” said Smith. “It is my hope that all eyes that connect with this piece will experience and appreciate the bloody truths released from our collective memory onto a hard canvas. Yet this is more than a painting or bold expression. It’s an altar that observes the most sacred social movement of my lifetime.”
This sentiment is also felt by Asheville native artist Jenny Pickens. “What an honor to be selected as one of the lead artists for the Black Lives Matter mural project,” said Pickens. “This is an exciting opportunity for me as a Black woman who was born and raised here. I hope this is the beginning of a much-needed change to bring people together in Asheville.”
Pickens has worked with many media ranging from pencil and pen and ink to pastels and oils, as well as in fiber arts, pottery, and jewelry making, but her passion is acrylics. Several of her murals are on display around the city, including her newest installation at LEAF Global Arts.
Muralist and fine artist Joseph Pearson moved to Asheville from New Orleans about five years ago. His work has been featured throughout the area, including a mural of George Floyd that covered the front of Blue Ridge Public Radio during the recent protests. A native Mississippian, his work is currently featured in an installation at All Souls Cathedral in Biltmore Village and at Benne on Eagle on The Block. Pearson says, “I’m excited to be a part of this project because it allows me an opportunity to add my voice to the Black Lives Matter movement through my gifts as an artist.” By adding his perspective to the struggle, he hopes to demonstrate his belief in the power of the arts to effect change.
Artist, educator, and curator Marie T. Cochran has worked in the Appalachian region for over twelve years. She is the founder of The Affrilachian Artist Project, which celebrates the intersection of cultures in Appalachia. Her mixed-media pieces often address community history and are grounded in interdisciplinary dialogues focused on social justice. She has exhibited extensively throughout the Southeast and nationally and was recently named the 2020/2021 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies at Duke University and American Studies and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.
Cochran feels “honored to be selected as one of the lead artists for the Black Lives Matter Asheville Street Mural.” She says, “It is inspiring to be a part of this declaration of solidarity with the movement to address systematic racism in an urban Appalachian community.”
The lead artists will focus on the mural design, while additional artists will also be selected to help craft a unique design for each of the letters.
This community effort will be funded by individual donations and in-kind business support. Though the City of Asheville has granted a permit for the temporary installation, it is not a city-owned or city-sponsored project.
Visit the Artists Online
Learn more about Jenny Pickens at fineartamerica.com/profiles/jenny-pickens/shop
Learn more about Joseph Pearson at www.josephart.net.
Learn more about Marie Cochran at www.facebook.com/affrilachianartist.
To learn more about this community project, visit www.ashevillearts.com/blm.