Mayor Jamie Mayo speaks with Monroe City Council member Gretchen Ezernack.jpeg

Three local artists asked the Monroe City Council earlier this week to let them paint a large-scale “Black Lives Matter” mural on a city roadway.

The mural would showcase the 16 letters of “Black Lives Matter,” as a street mural up to 280 feet in length, covering two traffic lanes on DeSiard Street in Monroe, according to Brooke Foy, a Visual & Performing Arts professor at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The City Council did not take a vote on the Black Lives Matter mural at its regular meeting Tuesday. Instead, the council is expected to vote on the matter during its July 28 meeting.

Foy — a public art advocate who helped restore the Coca-Cola wall murals in Monroe — told The Ouachita Citizen she and two other art professors presented the proposal to the City Council earlier this week to initiate a conversation, seeking public input about the project.

“We just want to present the project to allow you guys to really think about it, ask questions and have a dialogue,” Foy said. “We would like to come back again to have a final discussion.”

City Council members questioned the public art project because the city currently enforces no rules for processing public art proposals.

Joining Foy for the presentation on Tuesday were two of her colleagues: Rodrecas “Drek” Davis, an art professor at Grambling State University, and Vitus Shell, a local artist.

Davis explained the purpose of the mural would memorialize the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a black woman, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky police in March, while Floyd, a black man, died in May after Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. Floyd was a convicted felon.

Both figures have emerged as martyrs in the Black Lives Matter movement. According to Davis, a public art project memorializing them would open up a community dialogue about racial issues.

“That’s the basic idea for the piece in itself is to create work that will be temporary but will lay the foundation for something that can be long lasting,” Davis said. “And out of that initial work perhaps three or four pieces over the next couple of years.”

According to Davis, art teachers and students at local schools could participate in the project.

Foy added that black artists, children, college artists and local artists also would be involved on the project.

“In this, we have a chance and a real opportunity to do some heavy lifting that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” Davis said.

Foy explained the project could take anywhere from two to four days to complete.

City Council Chairman Juanita Woods asked whether a photo of the mural could be presented to the City Council before they took a vote on the matter.

City Council member Doug Harvey expressed concern about the mural’s maintenance and asked how the mural would be maintained.

Foy explained high quality paint would be used and could last up to two decades

“The type of artwork this is, we do have to understand the longevity of it, and it is going to last as far as maybe a ghost image as long as two decades,” Foy said.

Harvey asked Foy about the mural possibly being a target of vandalism.

“If we are in a situation where this is vandalized, that’s a real risk,” Harvey said. “What do you say to people who have that concern and also the concern of it being a divisive issue?”

Foy explained protection would be needed while working on the mural.

“We would ask for help to keep this while we are working on it,” Foy said. “This is going to create a lot of discussions, good and bad and hopefully more good than bad.”

After the meeting, The Ouachita Citizen asked Harvey, City Council member Kenneth “Kenny” Wilson and City Council member-elect Kema Dawson about their thoughts on the project.

Harvey, Wilson and Dawson said they would need more details.

“We don’t have all the details at this stage,” Harvey said.

“We need to make sure property owners don’t feel any pain there and one of the questions I asked tonight was there’s an ongoing maintenance component.”

Harvey explained there were murals in Forsythe Park that needed maintenance.

“I want to make sure there’s an ongoing commitment to maintain it,” Harvey said.

Dawson suggested possibly placing the mural on a wall instead of a roadway.

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