BR Walls Project

New Orleans based artist, Joseph Konert, works on his mural Tuesday afternoon on Harrington's Cafe in downtown Baton Rouge as part of the BR Walls Project. This is the project's second wall.

Benjamin Oliver Hicks

Beautification of a downtown eyesore could mean more than picking up litter or clearing away debris.

The Walls Project, in partnership with Love Your Block, Mayor-President Kip Holden’s neighborhood revitalization initiative, will paint as many pillars under the I-10 Mississippi bridge ramp as possible between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday.

“Whoever shows up will be handed a brush and pointed toward a certain task of the mural,” said Clark Derbes, lead artist on the project.

All volunteers, even those with no artistic background, are invited to join in the project on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

“I’m psyched about it,” Derbes said. “My mom used to take me and my friends skateboarding there when I was in fourth grade. She would pack me and a bunch of kids up and take us skateboarding.”

Since then, Derbes aimed to help beautify the space.

“It’s this kind of famous skate spot and had been for decades,” Derbes said. “And so I have a personal connection to that location.”

Lead artists on the project will guide community members in every step as they paint 12-foot-tall “Streetquiltz” on each pillar. “Streetquiltz” is a colorful, geometric pattern by artists Derbes and Marc Verret.

The pattern can be seen in many places around Baton Rouge as well as in Burlington, Vermont, where Derbes currently lives.

“It’s an ongoing project and this is just going to be the next chapter of that series,” Derbes said.

Charles Barbier is also helping lead the project. All three men are University alumni and have several murals in Baton Rouge.

The Walls Project was started in Baton Rouge in 2012. It’s grown into a statewide public art campaign funded by private sector donations.

While not all of its projects include public volunteers, Derbes said the geometric motif lent itself well to community involvement.

“The project, that particular project of drawing those triangles like that in that spot and on the interstate pillars is something that I had wanted to do for years,” Derbes said.

On his first project with Casey Phillips, executive director for The Walls Project, Derbes took him down to the Mississippi River bridge location and shared his idea for the space.

“So when the mayor’s office wanted to do a graffiti abatement beautification day where they were cleaning it up down there, Casey told them my idea and they gave it the go ahead,” Derbes said.

Derbes said the project was a proactive way for students to help beautify their town.

“It’s a really feel-good way to help your neighborhood,” he said. “I think there is something to be learned artistically, of course, but at the same time, it’s just a bunch of people from the community getting together and helping.”

Volunteers should meet at the parking lot near Pastime Restaurant at 8 a.m. Jan. 19.

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