Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Basketball and a Mural Wall: The Road to Success at Bethel LaBelle Neighborhood Youth Center

The Road to Success mural's ribbon cutting by artist Jamond Bullock, together with his mural crew, Thomas, Joseph and Charles. Flanking are Bethel LaBelle manager Wayne Williams to the right and his assistant on the left, next to UrbanArt Commission board chair Krystal Johnson. Photos by Siphne Sylve – see the photo album.

by Isabelle Campbell

September 27, 2013 was a day of celebration at the Bethel LaBelle Neighborhood Youth Center in Orange Mound. The Road to Success, a mural by Memphis artist Jamond Bullock was officially dedicated to the community center from whose outer wall it now brightly gleams. Bullock addressed an energetic audience – including many of the very youth who represent his vision for Orange Mound and the city of Memphis. It was this group that Bullock invited to help cut the dedicatory ribbon, and in that symbolic motion embrace his hope for the prosperity and perseverant values of their generation. The Road to Success is the first of seven district murals currently being completed through the UrbanArt Commission, which facilitates the City of Memphis Public Art Program.

The Bethel LaBelle center is a place of fun, faith, and most of all encouragement for the young people of its community. When Bullock first learned that he would be commissioned to create a mural on the outer wall of the BLCC he knew that he needed to learn about the place and what he found astounded and inspired him. The experience Bullock found within the BLCC is dedication and commitment to individual growth and provision of opportunities. The awe and respect that he experienced within a few moments inside the Bethel LaBelle Center inspired not only the theme for his mural but his sense of determination to finish what he started.

The Road to Success was completed in two weeks, and these weeks were wrought with challenges. “It rained almost every day,” Bullock shared, “and a small ‘lake’ developed directly in front of the mural wall.” Remembrance of their mission and the positivity they were projecting for the community kept Bullock and his team going. The youth of Orange Mound, many of whom sat before the artist at his mural dedication ceremony, became both the concentration and the motivation for his work.

Memphis Athletic Ministries, the organization that manages youth activities at the Bethel LaBelle “encourages kids to let their lights shine,” and the Road to Success mural serves to emphasize this goal. Within the mural, the “road to success” itself winds between various symbolic elements – an open book, a father with his son, and pervasive hues of bright orange. The largest images of the mural are two basketball players, and between them stand a circle of people holding hands. These symbols are poignant reminders of the diversity of opportunities and of the youth-centered fellowship that happen inside. The greatest emphasis Bullock gave to the symbolic elements of the mural during his dedication was to the orange fruit trees of the work. The fruit represents the youth of Orange Mound, who are the “fruit of the community.” The Road to Success is intended to stand representative of this fruit for many years as it continues to ripen.