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'Black Joy Is Radical' — A New Mural Aims To Continue Dialogue Around Race Issues In Utah

A photo of Franque Bains standing in front of the Patagonia mural.
Ivana Martinez
Franque Bains, founder of Utahn Conversations, said art is another way to talk about issues like race.

A new mural celebrating Black joy and anti-racism is being installed in Salt Lake City.

It covers the Patagonia storefront in Salt Lake’s Sugarhouse neighborhood and is painted in vibrant colors depicting Black dancers, prominent community leaders and Utah landscapes.

Blondine Jean-Packard, a Haitian American artist who painted the mural, said she drew inspiration from recorded discussions from the Utahn Conversations project. It was created after the murder of George Floyd. The project aims to have constructive dialogues within Utah communities around race while creating safe spaces for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

Jean-Packard said most of the conversations she heard revolved around themes of community, healing after trauma and finding safe spaces that foster creativity. She said a big part of that was celebrating Black joy.

“Black joy is radical,” Jean-Packard said, “and pretty powerful because it’s having joy in spite of the pain.”

She said the mural also showcases prominent people in the community who are working to create safe spaces in Utah, like activists Betty Sawyer, with the Ogden NAACP, journalist Billy Palmer and Meligha Garfield with the University of Utah’s Black Cultural Center. She also pointed to the themes of parenthood, creativity and connection in the mural.

Jean-Packard said representation in art is important because there are very few times when she sees herself depicted.

Franque Bains, the founder of Utahn Conversations, said around 200 people participated in the project. She said she sees this mural as another way of continuing the dialogue she and her friends started in 2020.

“Art gets out of truth in a way that's not as logical,” Bains said. “We need art just as much as we need the rigor of academia and the way that we think about things. We need art to help us feel and remember who we are and to see the truth hidden in plain sight in ways that we don't [see] in other ways.”

She said the way to start having conversations around race is to begin looking into systems of privilege and how people unconsciously engage in them.

“Remember that pointing the finger outward doesn't create the change that we want to see,” she said. “How can you ask yourself, how can you point the finger inward? In what ways am I reinforcing systems, and in what ways may I be turning a blind eye to things where I could help or advocate for folks?”

Annie Wilson, store manager of the Patagonia Outlet, said the partnership with Utahn Conversations came naturally as they hope to continue to advocate for these types of issues.

“We really wanted to utilize our space to be a place to uplift voices that maybe aren't as equally heard,” Wilson said.

The mural is one of many that have popped up in Salt Lake City in the last year like the one located on 800 S. and 300 W. Patagonia will hold a celebration for it on July 10.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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