Love wrapped around her name. The yellow and white painted letters were scattered across the wall, surrounding the purple outline of a heart. Inside, love was written sideways, upside down, backwards and across, encompassing her name painted in white: Breonna Taylor.
Breonna Taylor would have turned 27 years old Friday. But she was killed on March 13, when police broke down the door to her apartment in an attempted drug sting and shot her eight times. UF alumnus Renda Writer honored Taylor’s memory Friday by including her name in a mural for the Fifth Avenue Wall at Springhill project put on by the Cultural Affairs Department of Gainesville and the Urban Revitalization Project.
The Urban Revitalization Project is a local nonprofit organization that works on seeking out parts of the community to renovate with art. Its Fifth Avenue mural project at Springhill includes 11 muralists from different backgrounds doing diverse work focusing on religious pieces and other messages.
The Cultural Affairs Department in Gainesville has other projects like 352walls, with the mission to beautify the urban landscape and boost community pride through art according to the 352walls project coordinator and consultant for the City of Gainesville Cultural Affairs Department, Raquel Vallejo, who was also at the Fifth Avenue Project at Springfield.
Vallejo said the mural project started about 10 days ago and will probably be done by next week.
According to Vallejo, the muralists are spray painting a 220-foot wall divided into 11 spaces on Southeast Fifth Avenue and the corner of Southeast Sixth Street. Only two muralists paint per day to keep social distancing in place.
Writer applied to be a part of the Fifth Avenue project at Springhill and wasn’t originally planning on doing a mural for Taylor. However, he asked organizers if it would be okay if he put Breonna’s name in the middle of his mural as a tribute for her birthday, and they said yes.
Writer is a 41-year-old traveling mural artist who uses words instead of pictures in his mural art to convey his message and graduated from UF in 2000. His mission is to spread the message of world peace, he said, and he has done 75 murals in eight different countries that center on world peace. Writer did a mural in honor of George Floyd in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 3 and 4.
“I feel like it's my duty, you know, almost an obligation to use my art now,” Writer said. “I think the cause right now is pretty obvious, and since today is Breonna Taylor’s birthday, I figured this was perfect, like a sign I was supposed to be doing this.”
Vallejo said the Urban Revitalization project was originally supposed to start in March, and it was supposed to be a festival. Vallejo said it was an opportunity for 11 artists to come together and build community, but this didn’t happen because of COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s reflective of the times, and it just so happened that the timing was just perfect for these artists to come together,” Vallejo said.
Vallejo added that there are very few African American muralists in the profession and that the project is meant to recognize and uplift their work.
One of the black mural artists working on the Springhill project, 20-year-old Myqueal Lewis, painted “Staring Myqual Lewis.” The mural is filled with vibrant colors in sectioned pieces capturing phrases like “dream on.” Most significantly, four black men are painted across the wall, one being Lewis with no eyes.
Lewis said he painted himself this way because he wants the people he loves and admires to be the eyes for him. Surrounding the painting of Lewis is Spike Lee, Lewis’ favorite director, Casey Jones II, his high school best friend and J.Cole, his favorite rapper.
Lewis is a student at Florida A&M University and a part time artist and videographer. He first heard about the Urban Revitalization project on social media. He applied with no experience doing murals, but was accepted as one of the 11 muralists.
“I find it very unique and almost crazy to be able to find the ability to come out here and paint and to be able to continue to pump inspiration through this,” Lewis said. “To also be inspired by my friends, who are African American and my friends who are white, who are on the side of Black Lives Matter, is very crazy, yet unique.”
This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Raquel Vallejo's name. The Alligator originally reported differently.
Artist Renda Writer painted a mural in honor of Breonna Taylor Friday as part of the Fifth Avenue Wall at Springhill project.
Anna Wilder is a second-year journalism major and the criminal justice reporter. She's from Melbourne, Florida, and she enjoys being outdoors or playing the viola when she's not writing.