What Murals Tell Us

From Richmond, Virginia to Havana, Cuba

Richmond is at a unique intersection — rooted in the history of the Civil War, but moving towards being one of the most creative cities in the world. The renaissance of street art in Virginia’s capital is a direct reflection of a shift towards a progressive city whose people love to express themselves. And for many, that expression lies on the once-barren walls of the city’s buildings — which is one of the many reasons that living here is so special.

From our office, you can’t walk more than a few blocks without seeing a huge mural on the side of a city wall. Superheroes, animals, unexpected patterns and colors — all created by artists from around the world with unique styles. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we live in city where we’re free to create. There are even events like the Richmond Mural Project and the RVA Street Art Festival happening this weekend that don’t only allow street art to be created, but encourage it to be celebrated.

When you take a look at where street art stands in communist countries like Cuba, it’s easy to see how lucky we are to have freedom of expression.Victims of Communism recently reported on world famous graffiti artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado. El Sexto started drawing when he was only 5 years old. He knew he wanted to be an artist, but “couldn’t do art based on dreams, drawing flowers and pretty things while just next to my house they are beating up women.” Seeing this suffering, El Sexto was inspired to create anti-communist art, turning him into a target for Castro regime. He was recently released from his second stay in prison.

el sexto standing in front of his art
Graffiti artist El Sexto using his talent and creativity to document injustices by the Castro regime.

The world first took note of El Sexto when he performed one of the most subversive acts seen in Cuba in the last few years. He was arrested for attempting to stage a performance involving two pigs; one painted with the name of Raúl, while the other read Fidel. El Sexto’s time in prison only inspired him to create more, becoming a major voice in the fight for human rights in Cuba.

According to El Sexto, a graffiti artist is “a publicist of the underground, of the people, of reality.”

This rings true in Havana and today in Richmond. Public art, particularly street art, is the pulse of a city’s creativity, growth and the state of its people.

If you’re in Richmond, check out the RVA Street Art Festival, today, April 23rd and tomorrow, April 24th, in the Manchester District. As far as we’re concerned, street art is one of the greatest ways to bring people together in order to not only showcase talent but also to change and heal communities.