PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Unity Project, organized to build a sense of togetherness in the community, required just that as it placed its second mural Monday morning.
Off the side of the Earth Candy building on Sixth Street, the Project placed its “Grow Together Here” mural in front of a socially distant and masked crowd of around 20 people.
Gerald Cadogan, a teacher and coach at Portsmouth City Schools, said the times of divisiveness in the country allowed the project which he co-founded to take root this summer.
“It’s been a tough year and what helped me personally get through this is having friends and family that support you and lend a listening ear,” he said, noting tensions between African Americans and the Police. “It’s going to take everyone to come together to change things and get this community in Portsmouth to be welcoming to all races.”
Workers nailed in each of the mural’s 17 wood pieces, crafted by Portsmouth High School woodshop teacher Tyler Will and his students, and were told where to place them at the instruction of fellow staff member April Deacon.
Deacon, the high school’s art teacher, leads an Arts in the Community course and has taken a role with the Project’s art pieces. Earlier working on the “Band Together” mural off Market Street, she and her eight students designed and painted the final product.
In a sneak peek video from last week, she hoped that her students gained knowledge about the power of public art in the building of a stronger community.
“It’s my hope through all these public art projects that we do that they’re learning that it empowers them and they are capable of transforming their community in a positive way,” said Deacon, a 14-year teacher at PCHS in her third year of teaching this class.
Cadogan also hopes these displays can change existing attitudes about the city to one where all its residents are seen as difference-makers for the better.
“That’s what this project is all about,” he said. “Incorporating and utilizing all facets of this community to work together and change our perception.”
Setting four murals as a tangible goal, the Project plans to continue its display campaign and to host events bringing awareness to its cause.
“Once we’re done with our checklist of four, we still want seven or maybe 10,” said Cadogan, the project already hosting an Emancipation Day celebration in September. “Hopefully, we’ll spark others to be a part of it and come with ideas to include.”
Those wishing to donate to the Project’s future works can visit their Facebook page and then click on the Learn More tab.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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