Resilience is all around us in the time of Covid-19. Every day, people continue to go to work, go to school and take care of their families despite numerous challenges. It is this strength that inspired D.C.-based Creative Theory Agency (CTA) to establish the R Mural Project, an interactive art installation designed to inspire the community while also offering resources to those hit hardest by the pandemic. District Fray spoke with CTA’s co-founder and chief creative officer Gary Williams Jr. and art director Greg Fisk about what went into creating the mural, which can be seen at Union Market through 2021.
District Fray: How did you and fellow CTA co-founder Tamon George meet and decide to establish this culture-focused marketing agency?
Williams: He and I started out as photographers in the D.C. area. We started to run into each other, and we realized we had a lot of similar experiences within the creative world as Black men. A lot of those experiences were being the last ones to be called to the table. We realized that we had more to offer.
What was the inspiration behind the R Mural Project?
Williams: The R Mural Project [stemmed from] understanding how underrepresented communities were disproportionately affected by this pandemic. We have a mural wall that we’ve used for several projects in the Union Market area and we wanted to do something that would light up the community and be a spot where people could come and would want to interact with it. We extended that art on the sidewalk to almost encompass you and feel like you’re immersed. The storytelling part was to foster empathy and knowing that when people hear each other’s stories, it opens the door for inspiration. [We want] people to see themselves in someone else and understand, “Hey, I’m not going through this alone.” The third part of the project is the helpfulness directory, where we are populating a directory with links to funding, food banks, small businesses that you can support, childcare – whatever you need during this time.
How did you all decide to use the word “resilience?”
Williams: [“Resilience”] came from a tweet that Barack Obama posted [during the Covid period] and had to do with underrepresented communities often being called to be the most resilient during these times.
How do you explain the artistic direction behind this project? What aspects of it are interactive?
Fisk: The time in which this was going up was very dark and kind of ominous, so I wanted to create an immersive space that was the opposite of that. With the design, whatever the vantage point, I wanted you to be able to see the word “resilience.” On top of that, I used an AR component, so when you’re on Instagram you can access filters on Creative Theory’s account, and if you can’t go to the physical mural you can access a face filter which is good for sharing your own story of resilience. If you tag Creative Theory, we might post it on our curated list of stories. [There is also] a plaque with a QR code and when you click the code it will jump to a Linktree where there are links to several interactions with the mural.
Whose local stories can be seen on the website?
Williams: We’ve been doing Zoom interviews with folks and getting stories of resilience from people most affected by Covid right now: service industry workers, grocery store workers, frontline workers, educators [to name a few].
Who are some of the other parties that helped make this mural happen?
Williams: [I want] to mention our main partner on this which is Capital One. They’ve allowed us to take this project to the next level and make of it what we want.
Fisk: And a shoutout to our muralist Manuela Montano. She’s the one that painted the mural.
What is your favorite art medium? Fisk: Letterpress printing. Williams: Photography. Who is your favorite artist? Williams: My favorite artist of the moment is Joshua Kissi. What is your favorite thing about D.C.? Fisk: There’s a very strong focus on community in D.C., and a strong emphasis on culture. Do you have a go-to podcast or artist you listen to while working? Fisk: Smithsonian’s Sidedoor, which is a podcast I actually work on. Williams: I’m often listening to Kaytranada while I work. Which D.C. restaurant has your favorite take-out? Fisk: Busboys and Poets. Williams: Cane. Have you taken up any new hobbies in quarantine? Fisk: Not new, but my two major hobbies are breakdancing and rock-climbing. Williams: I got a motorcycle license and a Can-Am Ryker bike. What’s one thing you can’t live without? Fisk: Nature. Williams: My wife. Do you have any goals for 2021? Fisk: Be resilient as a family and don’t let the weight of the world take me down, but grow because of it. Williams: Continue to grow as a person and as a business.
To access the stories and resources provided by the R Mural project, visit www.rmuralproject.com. To keep up with CTA and their work, go to www.creativetheory.agency and follow them on Instagram @creativetheoryagency.
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