“It is my distinct honor as a steward of this program to connect our native sons and daughters to opportunities that celebrate our shared gifts, goals, and collective memory,” Morgan Udoh, Public Arts and Placemaking Programs Coordinator for Walls Project, said during her speech.
The mural is the brainchild of Baton Rouge-based artist Bryson Boutte, who is a regular participant in the annual MLK events. This is his second major mural he’s completed for Walls Project.
“The mural itself is about the future of transportation in Baton Rouge,” he explained. “I really tried to encapsulate many different ways that people might move according to how we could build the city and have less cars on the road.”
The 2200-square-foot mural is located on the backside of Toussaint Customs and Collisions, which is located at 1824 Highland Road. Owner Marcus Toussaint talked about his reasons for starting his company, his expansion to his current location, and his reasons for working with the Walls Project to add the mural.
“We started out in my dad’s garage. I always had a passion for cars and so I started customizing my car just bit by bit,” he said. “I graduated LSU in mechanical engineering and I went into the field of engineering and had a very successful career. I loved it. My brother saw the vision I had and he invested in me. When I didn’t have the money to finish a project, he was right there for me with the money.
“Unfortunately, my brother passed away in a car accident, and so this was kind of the turning point of my career. I realize that this life is a promise. I was fulfilling a life of someone else’s dreams and it was time for me to step into my true role. That’s when I quit my engineering job and career and became a full-time entrepreneur.
“When we moved to this location, when we first got here, I painted the building white and everyone always told me it’s a beautiful canvas. They kept using the word canvas. And that sparked the idea, so that’s when I started digging.
“We recognize the need for local transportation in Baton Rouge. We were able to find the Walls Project and ever since then they worked with us to create a design that fits the needs of the city.”
Business owners providing the location is only the first layer when it comes to completing a mural of this magnitude. The help of financial supporters is also required to make the project a reality. The largest financial supporter of the mural is the Capital Area Transit System (CATS).
“Thanks to our partners at the Walls Project for not only this mural but the ongoing conversation that we are having about transportation and how it fits into everything else,” said Cheri Soileau, Director of Planning, Scheduling and Program Development for CATS. “Transit is part of the economic fabric of a city as well as giving dignity and respect to people who might be right there and not have an opportunity.”
Individual donors also provided financial support for this mural. They include Joe Salem, Chris Walters, Anthony Moorehead, Tim Paslay, the Downtown East Social Ride, Emily Jackson, Hannah Walker, Thomas Donley, Joe and Cary Skaggs.
Closing out the press conference was co-founder and Executive Director of the Walls Project, Casey Phillips. He put into focus the significance of the mural and how its theme is something you’re going to see more of from the organization.
“As the Walls evolves, over this last decade, what you see here, this is just on the surface of the wall, this is just the beginning. It’s always just been the beginning,” he said. “As we’re coming into this next decade of work, we’re really focused on the nine systematic drivers of poverty in our community. And one of those is access to reliable and affordable transportation, specifically in regards to social mobility.”
This is the fourth mural that addresses those nine drivers of poverty. It’s not too late to provide financial support for this mural, and for the ones we hope to complete next.
Photo gallery by Maya Miller.