Q&A with Brittni Mosby, the artist behind Commerce Bank’s Tower Grove branch mural
After recent protests left some St. Louis area businesses with boarded-up windows, a pair of local artists, Jayvn Solomon and Tyson Baker, created an organization to paint murals on those boards. Dubbed Painted Black STL, the group was inspired by a similar effort that happened after the Ferguson protests in 2014. Painted Black STL serves as a connection point between impacted businesses and local artists, and has raised money through a GoFundMe to pay for the artists’ supplies.
When Commerce Bank’s Tower Grove branch was damaged, team members reached out to Painted Black and were connected with local artist Brittni Mosby, who spent parts of three days painting a mural on the boards covering damaged portions of the branch. We chatted with Mosby to find out more about her background, why she’s excited about the project, and the meaning behind her design.
How did you get connected with Painted Black?
I found out about them via Instagram and sent them a message saying that I wanted to get involved. It was pretty easy from there.
What’s your background in art? How did you develop as an artist?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid, and I decided to pursue it two years into my college career. I went to St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley and graduated from UMSL with a bachelor’s degree in studio art with an emphasis in drawing. That was just last year, so I’m trying to get my artwork out there and doing things in the community.
I worked at a performing arts company in St. Louis, but as of right now, because of COVID, doing art has become my full-time job. I usually do it on the side, but right now it’s a full-time thing. So much has been ever-changing; it started with COVID and evolved into everything that’s been happening. There’s just so much going on. But the great thing about art is that it can adapt. Due to COVID, I’m home a lot more and am drawing more, and now I have a way to express it and get it out there. I want to communicate through my art to the community.
How would you describe your artistic style?
It changes, because the work I’ve done previously didn’t have much color in it, and the color I did use was very selective. Mainly I do bigger drawings, and in the past year, I’ve done more oil painting. I would say a lot of my work is more figurative. I mainly paint people with an African-American background, and now I’m introducing more color – really saturated bright colors – to my work.
That use of bright colors is reflected in what you’re painting for Commerce Bank. What would you like people to take away from this piece?
Everything that’s going on right now is really dark and upsetting to hear about, and to see. But it’s also very important to get the message out, and I really want my art to have some meaning. My spin on it is to make the colors as bright as possible, to lift the community up. The things that are happening right now are very important. I could have done something that says Black Lives Matter or RIP to a specific person, but I think it’s important to express some joy and happiness that people in the community can appreciate. This work also includes the image of a woman at the center, which I included because there hasn’t been enough attention brought to women who have been affected by injustices.
Have you done other works that reflect on the themes of the recent protests?
This is my first step into the protests. I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to address it, because going out there can be risky. I think it’s important to be mindful of how I want to articulate my feelings toward everything that’s going on. This was the perfect opportunity for me to use my art and have it out in the community for people in St. Louis to see.
Are you excited to have people see your art in this way?
I’m excited, and I’m also a little bit nervous. It’s mostly exciting to have this opportunity presented to me. I’m grateful for it. I’m very interested in hearing people’s reactions to it, and I’m curious to find out how the people at Commerce Bank like it.
Throughout its history, Commerce Bank has worked to build relationships based on trust. The values we hold as a company affect everything we do, every single day. Today, those same values form the basis of the bank’s continued commitment to inclusion and diversity. We believe our differences make the difference in how we better serve the needs of our customers, team members and communities.
Mosby’s mural can be seen at Commerce Bank’s Tower Grove branch at 3134 S. Grand Blvd. in St. Louis.
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