Kyle Holbrook paints anti-gun violence murals on Roosevelt Row in Phoenix

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At last count, Kyle Holbrook has painted over 800 murals, some reaching up to 27 stories. For his latest project in Phoenix, the 22-year-old muralist uses a simple street art style to humanize the issue of gun violence.

Holbrook explained that the peace hand sign depicted on the two Roosevelt Row murals is meant to signify that the power to perpetuate or stop gun violence is in the hands of the people. The peace sign is the symbol of choice in the national mural tour that Holbrook launched last year – the simplicity of its design is the point.

The murals are “meant to be simple so people can understand the message,” Holbrook said. “It’s more about message than aesthetics.”

Where are the new murals on Roosevelt Row?

The murals are located on Roosevelt Street near Second Street and 15th Avenue and measure 8 feet by 4 feet and 5 feet by 2 feet, respectively. Done in black brush and acrylic paint on a cinder block wall and a storage container, the small sizes of the murals are meant to invite passers-by to take a selfie with their phone, Holbrook said.

Holbrook painted the murals on August 6, choosing locations to maximize their impact.

“Roosevelt Row is obviously such a great place for art and galleries, so a lot of people go there with the goal of getting pictures of art,” Holbrook said. “Now we can use it to spread the message.”

What do the murals mean?

Holbrook, 44, saw nearly 50 of his friends and family members, including two cousins, die as a result of gun violence. He was driven to start the project after an anti-gun violence activist mentor lost his 15-year-old grandson to a gunshot wound.

Holbrook, who owns a gun for protection, said the murals are less about stopping the proliferation of guns and more about addressing the underlying issues leading to the human carnage associated with them.

“I don’t think we need machine guns to hunt, but I don’t think we should take all the guns,” Holbrook said, stressing the need for more economic resources and mediation efforts. “Certainly, I think a lot is mental health and mental health awareness. And a lot of people who commit violence have been victims of gun violence or needed some sanity because hurt people hurt people.

Who is muralist Kyle Holbrook?

Holbrook’s public arts organization, Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project, includes a team that researches the next site for a mural and a council that accepts grants to fund the artwork.

So far, Holbrook’s project has taken him to 42 cities, including Chicago and Baltimore.

The tour nominates “cities that have a thriving art scene, so we can use the power of public art to spread the message further,” Holbrook said, adding that a city’s gun violence rates are taken into account. account.

According to a June 22 announcement from Phoenix on Operation Gun Crime Crackdown, homicides with firearms are up 45% this year over the same period a year earlier and aggravated assaults involving firearms fire increased by 23% compared to the same period last year.

Holbrook spends his time between Pittsburgh, Miami and New York. Holbrook has ties to Arizona – his father attended Arizona State University and the artist visited the state as a child. His best friends also live in the valley. For Black History Month last year in Phoenix, Holbrook produced a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. wearing a face mask to promote public health during the pandemic.

Although a Miami-area mural that Holbrook made in honor of George Floyd was vandalized, he said this art tour did not elicit any negative response.

“I use it to unite,” he said of the tour. “That’s the goal and not to be divisive.”

Contact Late Breaking Reporter Jose R. Gonzalez at [email protected] or on Twitter @jrgzztx.

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