Italian artist Giuseppe Percivati, better known as Pepe Gaka, and local artist Anthony Tidwell have spent close to two months working on a mural that honors the cultural and entertainment legacy of the African-American community in Hot Springs.
The work, an homage to the area known as "Black Broadway," is located on the side of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore building at 350 Malvern Ave. A celebration of the mural's completion will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday.
This is the fourth mural Gaka has created in Hot Springs, each culturally diverse. The first, located in downtown Hot Springs, celebrated the town's Native American culture. The second mural has a white woman as its central subject. Gaka said he proposed making a third one to celebrate the area's African-American culture, but his next project ended up being one in honor of Hot Springs' Sister City, Hanamaki, Japan.
The latest mural depicts local leaders and Hot Springs World Class High School students. Gaka said each of the 34 people depicted on the mural is both real and alive, rather than historical figures, so people will be able to relate to the mural through parents, friends and family, including children and grandchildren.
Everybody has at least 20 people who are close to them, Gaka said, and mathematically, at least, over 600 people will be able to look at the mural over the next century and recognize either themselves or someone they know.
Gaka said the high school students in the mural will be alive for at least another 60 to 70 years. "For 70 years they will be able to see themselves on the wall," he said, and in 2060 they could show their grandchildren what they looked like when they were their age.
Of the four murals Gaka has created in Hot Springs, he said this is the most difficult. In addition to wanting to honor the African-American community, he said he wants to celebrate the Hot Springs community. He said in Italy, they don't have as much division as in America, noting it is not Democrats versus Republicans or whites versus blacks there.
To show a better future, Gaka said the mural depicts many African-American people, but also people of other races, marching in the same direction. The composition of having 34 people marching in unison was very difficult to get right, he said, noting it is the most complex mural he has ever done. He said the two months it took to finish will make it the longest amount of time he has ever spent on one mural.
When Gaka proposed the mural to Mary Zunick, executive director of the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance, he also proposed collaborating with Tidwell, who said getting to work with Gaka has been a blessing.
Tidwell is the creator of Cutwell 4 Kids, an organization that teaches children how to paint. Over the course of creating the mural, Gaka is teaching Tidwell how to make murals, and Tidwell will be able to share that knowledge with the youths of Hot Springs.
Not only are Tidwell's students going to learn from the collaboration, five of them -- Ja'Leayiah Easter, Jamon Linwood, Gavyn Litzsey, Jaydon Litzsey and Rashaun McNary -- got to work on the mural. Tidwell said he decided to let these students help because they had been in his program since he started C4K.
"To be a part of this is major for me," Tidwell said. Earlier this year, Tidwell was given an award at Arkansas Arts Council's Governor's Arts Awards by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Tidwell said he wanted to also thank his boss, Tim Anderson at Tim's Barbershop, for supporting him and the mural.
Both Gaka and Tidwell said Zunick deserves the credit for making the project happen. After the mural was proposed to her, she found funding for it by getting two grants from the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and Wells Fargo Foundation in partnership with Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance, Cutwell 4 Kids, and Gateway Community Association.
Numerous other community partners including businesses and individuals lent support to make the mural possible, according to Zunick, who said the mural is exciting for several reasons, one being that the children on the mural will be able to see it for decades.
"Future generations will take pride in it," she said.
The mural is located on a building that would have been right on the edge of what was known as "Black Broadway."
According to Visit Hot Springs, during the 1930s through the early 1960s, the section of Malvern Avenue was home to a thriving and widely renowned variety of entertainment enterprises that saw world-famous African-American entertainers and others perform during visits to the Spa City. African-American-owned businesses, a large hotel and a bath house also thrived in the area.
Once this mural is finished, a second mural is planned even further into the old "Black Broadway," depicting historical figures, at 501 Prime.
The second mural will not be "anywhere near as complex" as the first one, which is expected to be completed by today, Gaka said.Local on 05/17/2019
Print Headline: New 'Black Broadway' mural nears completion