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Message of Mural: ‘Vision of Hope in the Face of Tragedy’

Patti Singer

The mural on the side of 810 Genesee Street represents a vision of hope in the face of tragedy, according to artist Brittany Williams. Photo by Jason Wilder

The idea was to paint a mural to help the community overcome and heal from gun violence.

“We did feel strongly that the mural appear in a neighborhood that’s been affected by gun violence,” said Jeremy Tjhung of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “We got in the car. We started at the Boys & Girls Club, driving up and down Genesee Street.”

They didn’t have to go far from where on that night in August 2015, three people were shot dead and four were wounded.

At 2 p.m. on June 8th, a coalition of groups working to prevent gun violence will unveil a mural on the side of the building at 810 Genesee Street, just blocks south of the Boys & Girls Club.

The painting by artist Brittany Williams depicts a young black man, his face framed by white flowers and green leaves. He is wearing an orange hoodie – orange being the color that activists have adopted for awareness of gun violence.

Tjhung said that according to Williams, the figure “is a vision of hope in the face of tragedy.”

The image isn’t of any particular person – either victim or survivor. “It’s meant so everyone can project their own story onto it,” Tjhung said.

Tjhung said the initial thought came from Audrey Sample, leader of the local Students Demand Action, the student arm of Moms Demand Action. Both are part of Everytown for Gun Safety, which was offering community art grants to promote awareness of gun violence.

The action groups approached Wall\Therapy, which according to its website uses public murals to “to transform the urban landscape, inspire, and build community.”

Brittany Williams in front of the mural she painted
at 810 Genesee St. Photo by Jason Wilder

With Wall\Therapy as part of the project, Moms Demand Action won a grant that covered the cost. Just as importantly, Tjhung said that building owner Lester Quinn threw his complete support behind the project.

“We found the perfect wall in a perfect spot,” Tjhung said. “It’s a strong and powerful coincidence that let us know the universe wanted this to happen.”

But the image still had to get painted. Williams worked from May 17-19, sometimes between the raindrops.

“She’d be in the car while it was raining,” Tjhung said. “There was a break in the rain, she’d run out with a spray can and do a leaf.”

The unveiling is being held on Wear Orange Weekend. Scheduled speakers include Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and people whose lives have been affected by gun violence. People attending will be able to add to the wall the names of loved ones lost to gun violence.

Voter registration will be available and there also will be children’s activities. The event is scheduled to run until 4 p.m. ROC Against Gun Violence Coalition, Rise Up Rochester and the city also are involved.