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New mural on vaulted ceiling documents Black revolutionary history

Published: Oct. 24, 2021 at 11:42 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The next time you walk into the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center in Burlington, you’ll see a new mural on the vaulted ceiling that pays tribute to historical, present-day, and local heroes who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

The work of art is titled “The Wall of Respect: Luminaries of Justice and Liberation.” The creators, Will Kasso Condry and Jennifer Herrera Condry of Juniper Creative, say the painting features the portraits of 100 people of color who paved the way for change. It documents 230 years of Black and Brown revolutionary history, starting with the Haitian Revolution which started in 1791.

“These are all the folks that either have given us the blueprint, have done the work in the past, or are continuing to do the work,” said Herrera Condry. “From scholars, artists, activists, educators.”

The married couple spent 11 months working on the mural, which was painted on an 1,100-square-foot vaulted ceiling inside the performing arts center. Kasso Condry says it was “a huge undertaking.”

The Condrys say they started brainstorming last summer after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

“It was such trying times,” said Kasso Condry. “The nation was turned upside down.”

The Condrys say they wanted the mural to tell the stories of Black people and people of color-- but not the story of oppression, trauma and violence that we often hear.

“We got tired of that narrative as being our universal story,” said Kasso Condry.

Instead, they wanted to highlight the untold stories of Black power, innovation and triumph.

“Making sure we’re telling the story that’s only going to uplift us and not keep kicking us while we’re down,” Kasso Condry said. “We wanted to keep that feeling of pride and not grief.”

Once they began researching who to feature in the piece, they say names and faces eventually started coming to them.

“It’s almost as if their spirits showed up and said ‘Oh, ya’ll painting some stories here? You can’t leave me out of the story. And we were like ‘Oh, I guess not,’” said Herrera Condry.

The Condrys say they were so wrapped up in the process of creating the mural, they didn’t realize just how impactful and moving it is until someone walked in, looked at it and burst into tears.

“And that’s when Jennifer and I looked at each other like ‘Yeah, we’re tapped into something here that I don’t even think, at the time, we were fully aware of,” said Kasso Condry.

The Condrys hope the mural will inspire and educate generations to come about the beauty, resilience and joy of Black people.

“Fifty, 100 years from now, what is this mural going to say? At a time where, who knows what the narrative will be. But this could be that benchmark, just like the Sistine Chapel, to where people would go to get that source of inspiration and pride from a cultural standpoint,” said Kasso Condry. “We knew this was something that was going to be epic.”

Public viewings of the “Luminaries of Justice and Liberation” mural are available only by appointment.

Kasso Condry painted majority of the mural and was assisted by Herrera Condry and their daughters Alexa and Sierra, as well as Burlington-based artist Will Gebhard, UVM student Cameron Steele, and their family friend Weiwei Wang.

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