Artists begin painting Black Lives Matter installment around Vance Monument in Asheville

July 19, 2020 - Lead artists and volunteers paint "Black Lives Matter" in large, bold letters around a shrouded Vance Monument in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) – A city-approved temporary art installment has been painted in downtown Asheville.

Artists and volunteers began painting "Black Lives Matter" in large letters around the now-shrouded Vance Monument on July 19.

"We decided to keep the mantra Black Lives Matter and do our rendition of it here in Asheville," said Sheneika Smith, Asheville city council member.

The project has been in the planning stages for for the last several weeks and was unanimously approved on July 14 by Asheville City Council.


Spearheaded by Smith, the city has been working with Asheville Area Arts Council on the project. The arts council's website says they've raised more than $15,000 for the installment.

Smith says they have hired at least 20 Black artists to help, including three lead artists.

"This is like one of the best feelings I do like the fact that the artists I chose they’re local artists," said Jenny Pickens, one of the lead artists. Pickens said she was also born and raised in Asheville which made it more special.

She says some of the artwork shown is meant to represent Black culture and Appalachia.

"The banjo, the mountainous region," Smith described. "So we wanted to do something to stand in solidarity for the national movement but also make something very significant to Blacks who live in Asheville."


The main three colors being used for the mural are red, black and green, and each letter was individually designed by a Black artist.

For some the act of painting the mural was a form of therapy amidst racial unrest of recent weeks.

"Grabbing a brush or beating a drum is kind of how I get through some things," said one artist.

Members of the Latinx community also helped.

The mural itself is placed in such a spot where artists say they are able to take back their power.

"The Vance Monument and that location makes it even more powerful as a spiritual rebirth of a place," said Marie T. Cochran, a lead artist.

With the reparations for the Black community passed just several days ago by city council and the new mural, people on Sunday called them positive moments.

"I do feel like we’re making progress, this is a great sign of progress being made," said Smith.

Councilwoman Smith says people know there is a chance for counter-protesters and she says if people deface it, the mural will be fixed.

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