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New Louisville mural to commemorate 2020 racial justice protests

Muralists Jared Diaz and Darius Dennis stand on a raised, green cherry picker. They have a small blue umbrella attached to protect them from the sun. In front of them, a brick wall is partially painted white.
Jon Cherry
Muralists Jared Diaz and Darius Dennis are using a process called pouncing to take Cherry's work from a photograph to a wall-sized mural.

The work of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jon Cherry from 2020 racial justice protests will look out onto downtown Louisville in a new mural.

During the 2020 protests in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jon Cherry captured people on film pushing back against police brutality.

“It's important that we memorialize the recent history of the city,” Cherry said.

The source image for the mural was taken June 5, 2020 during a protest in Frankfort. It shows a man pointing off-camera.

The mural on the NIMBUS building at 438 South 3rd Street is oriented so he’s pointing towards the West End.

Cherry said it’s a pivotal part of why that image was chosen.

“That was kind of an important aspect of this to be able to point towards some of the Black history that exists right here underneath our own feet,” Cherry said.

This is the first time one of Cherry’s pieces is being scaled up to mural size. He said he always pictures his images being blown up to larger sizes when he takes them but never thought that it would happen.

To take an image from a photograph to a wall-sized mural takes lots of collaboration.

There needs to be a canvas for the mural. That’s where NIMBUS came in. They are providing the wall space for the mural. Cherry said CEO Stacey Wade has been a large supporter of work like this; he even owns a print of the image being used.

Then there’s funding. Louisville Visual Arts along with Stirling and Maud Welch have been essential in the fiscal portion of the project.

Katy Delahanty, executive director of the Portland Museum, helped to coordinate the project. A note of transparency, Delahanty serves on LPM’s community advisory board.

Then of course you need the muralists.

 A hand in a black latex glove uses a paint roller with white paint to cover a brick wall.
Jon Cherry
Dennis and Diaz said murals allow museum-quality art to be easily accessed by more people in a community.

One of the people turning Cherry’s image into a wall-sized painting is Jared Diaz.

Diaz, a muralist from New York, said it’s important to have a close-knit team with similar understandings of their work for the mural to be put up successfully.

“There are no robust grant programs for this kind of avant-garde work that includes Black representation, that does engage politic, but also speaks to community and still realizes a beautiful museum-quality painting, depicting the work of a local photographer,” Diaz said

Depicting an image of activists who are still alive by a photographer who is also still alive was an important component of the mural to show the protests are ongoing.

“That way, it's not lost, that this is a living torch that we're carrying,” Diaz said.

The mural’s planners wanted to create a piece of public art that speaks to people less heard in communities.

“We've sort of taken the stance of looking at these very literal snapshots in time, and using them as representational moments, but then also bringing beauty from these moments, even when a few of them have been sort of lodged in these very turbulent times,” said Darius Dennis, a muralist from Chicago working on the project.

The accessibility of public art, like murals, means that more people will be able to see these snapshots of history and museum-quality art with fewer barriers.

There are several ways to take a photograph and scale it up to mural size. Diaz and Dennis are using a method called pouncing. A process Dennis said is being used by “the best wall dogs on the planet.”

“We actually will create a drawing or a sketch of the image, we will, we will project that image onto paper, and then we will perforate it in order to give us a sense of scale and structure of the mural,” Dennis said.

The city plans to unveil the new mural Friday.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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