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Artist Khari Johnson-Ricks Celebrates Queer Skate Communities with Center City New Mural

March 8, 2021

In love with this new mural by New Jersey-based artist Khari Johnson-Ricks! Located outside The Attic Youth Center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth at 255 South 16th Street in Center City, the mural was commissioned by the Asian Arts Initiative as part of their Unity at the Initiative exhibition that’s celebrating the work of Jeffrey Cheung and queer/trans artists of color in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been thinking about ways to make images of queer and trans people that centers their personhood,” Khari responded over email about the inspiration behind his new mural. “More often than not when images get made of queer people it centers sex or gender visibility. I want to see more images of the ambitions of queer people and the nuances of there lives.”

Unity at the Initiative is a multi-site multimedia visual exhibition and in-home experience centered on the work of artist and skater Jeffrey Cheung and their UNITY initiative out of Oakland CA. (I’ll be talking more about the exhibition more widely on this blog very soon!) And for Khari’s part in the exhibition and this mural, Jeffrey’s work and skating became a big inspiration: “It has felt beautiful to come here and meet some of the queer skate community in order to do this project. When I was younger and I was interested in skating, but I hadn’t really seen any queer skaters and I always wonder what might I be like if I had found queer community through skating. I wanted to visualize that for the kids that might be coming to The Attic. You have so many options and opportunities to do and be whatever you want to be and there are people that want you to be apart of that.”

This is Khari’s first piece of public art in Philly, but hopefully not his last: “The public art I want to make reflects the communities they are apart of and opens up spaces for radical imagination.”

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