Story and Images by Sherricka Day
Advocate- a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.
Advocacy is any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, or pleads on behalf of others. There are healthcare advocates, school advocates, employee advocates, and someone somewhere is playing the devil’s advocate! The Columbus community has a special group of advocates that speak in favor of and support the need for more public art in the city. This group, known as Advocacy Through Art, includes three diverse women that are known to be hard-working, strong-willed and ready to defend their cause: Hannah Israel, Sherricka Day and Becca Zajac.
In 2020, Advocacy Through Art began the legwork in getting the City’s buy-in and approval on a public art mural. This was significant at the time the ladies approached City Council, because there were no policies or procedures in place on how to move forward or what the process should look like. This would also be the first city-approved public art mural on city property. Thankfully, after months of public and private meetings and negotiations, the City granted their approval to have a mural painted on Talbotton Road, on the wall right below the Ronald McDonald House.
Advocacy Through Art commissioned artist Thomas “Detour” Evans out of Colorado to create the new mural, known as Hope, Healing and Community. (Visit Detour’s social media pages to understand his work. Creative is an understatement!) Detour’s signature pallet is bold and vibrant. His murals are mesmerizing; his subjects are lifelike. He even experiments with technology and is finding ingenious ways to incorporate music and sound into his work.
Detour visited Columbus in August 2022. During his trip, he met with community leaders to discuss the details of the Hope, Healing, and Community mural. He also taught a lecture at Columbus State University to art students and others interested in learning about his experiences as an artist. Detour spent time in the Rosehill and Waverly Terrace neighborhoods to learn more about the people that live, work, eat, and visit those areas. He also toured the Ronald McDonald House and had conversations with the volunteers and staff. For lunch, he went to Vicky’s Soulfood Café and broke bread with a few of the customers.
Why? Detour's goal was not just to capture the faces of people from that part of the community, but also to hear their stories and understand who they are. Detour took his notes, pictures, and memories back to Denver to sketch his draft of the mural, in preparation for the December installation.
When Detour returned to Columbus, he worked alongside Columbus State University students, Huynh Quang Vinh and Andrew Tatum, to create the mural. Chris Johnson, a fellow muralist from the community, was also present.
It took roughly one week from the time the wall was pressure washed, to the drying of the last stroke of paint, for the mural to be completed! Detour met with Hannah, Sherricka, and Becca for dinner the night before the mural unveiling. They laughed, talked, and rehashed the ups and downs, ins and outs, and overall excitement on the completion of the project.
We were lucky enough to be relayed some of that conversation to share with you here. Read on to hear all about the mural from the artist himself...
Hannah: What was your favorite and least favorite things about working on the project?
Detour: My least favorite was the mosquitoes! The mosquitoes were the most challenging part of painting the mural. When I first started, I kept wondering why I was itching so much. It was the mosquitoes! I had to wear long sleeves and jeans and it was 80 degrees outside, and I thought that was crazy. We don’t have bugs in Denver!
My favorite part of the project was getting to know Mickey. Becca and I met him at Vicky’s Soulfood Cafe. He has so much personality. He has 24 kids, he is a Vietnam vet and said he’s been shot a couple of times. He also said some shots may have been from the war or from an ex-wife! (laughing) Mickey is a character. He’s very memorable and ended up being one of the faces on the mural. Everyone needs to meet Mickey.
Becca: What do you want people to take away from the mural?
Detour: I want people to learn about the people in the mural, like Mickey. I want them to feel joy. I want the city to get past the obstacles present that present such a challenge to getting more public art in the city. I’m hoping that this mural will make it easier for the city to say yes to more public art.
Sherricka: What did your workday look like?
Detour: I started at 8 am and would finish around 10 pm. I took breaks in between to watch the World Cup.
Sherricka: What’s playing in your headphones when you’re working?
Detour: I listen to podcasts, like Undisputed, The Breakfast Club, and The Read. I also like listening to self-help audio books. I’m enjoying The Power of Moments, which is about why some moments stick in our minds and others don’t. Hardcore History is another favorite, which is about the history of different moments. Malcolm Gladwell is my favorite audio book author. I don’t really listen to any music when I’m working. Audio books make the day go faster.
Becca: What does the future of your art look like? Where do you find joy and passion?
Detour: Murals are my bread and butter. But I want to start doing less murals and get more into sculptures. I’m starting to be more selective I the work that I take. I’ve learned that the more stakeholders that are involved in a mural, the harder it is to control what I do. Murals are saturating the art world. Don’t get me wrong, I will still do murals, but I want to be able to enjoy it. I am looking to dive deeper into installation work.
Sherricka: Let’s talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence) art. It has taken over in the art field. What’s your take on it?
Detour: AI is making it harder to do work. There’s a huge shift in how art is produced and how it is consumed. AI is a gamechanger. Now a consumer can go to a search engine in type in what they want, and AI will create whatever image they want. This decreased the value of art. You don’t have to be an artist to do artwork. Also, copyright laws protect AI work, even if the work was stolen from another artist. It’s changing up the art industry.
Sherricka: Detour, what are you working on next?
Detour: As soon as I get back to Denver, I’m starting on another mural. Literally, in two days! ◼️
More to Know:
Hope, Healing and Community Partners:
College of the Arts – Columbus State University, Columbus 2025, Dragonfly Trail Network, Columbus Consolidated Government, Piedmont Columbus Regional, Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, Direct Services, Ronald McDonald House Charities of West GA, Minor in Business, NeighborWorks Columbus, Muscogee County School District, Sammie Saxon Photography, Trey Walker Studio
The Hope, Healing and Community Mural was privately funded. It is a project under Columbus 2025, Vibrant and Connected Places Committee. To learn more visit, www.columbus2025.com.
Pictured on the mural; from left to right.
Dr. Gurkeerat Singh