RICHMOND, Va. -- The Arthur Ashe Memorial Project is a new mural in Richmond that will not only pay tribute to one of Richmond's heroes, but also aims to shine a light of hope as the city sees a spike in violence. Some people made financial contributions to the project, while dozens of volunteers picked up paintbrushes Saturday to transform a tunnel.
The Unity Street Project in Battery Park is fueled by a group of passionate artists.
James Thornhill said the aim is to illuminate beloved Richmonder and tennis great Arthur Ashe.
"It’s going to be… a walk through timeline of his history starting here, and as you go through, you will see some of the things Arthur Ashe did throughout the world,” Thornhill explained.
The vibrant colors transform the tunnel leading to the community Ashe grew up in. It is a place of fond memories that Lori Lola Hunter cherishes.
“My brothers took tennis lessons from Arthur Ashe. I because I did whatever Roy did, I took tennis from him in '68. And so I still teach tennis down here,” Hunter said.
The Battery Park resident is grateful for the work of these artists and the dozens of volunteers, like the helping hand comes from Altria.
Those volunteers spent hours not only painting, but also trimming back an overgrown area of the park and even building covered picnic tables for park-goers.
“It’s like putting light in a dark place. And now it`s open and neighbors are so excited. We tell them it`s about Arthur Ashe and they get very emotional. It touches my heart and especially when I see all this come to fruition. That playground over there, they’re putting mulch over there. They’re building picnic table. This group, man, has been awesome,” Thornhill said.
Artist Hamilton Glass hopes the imprint left in Battery Park will be felt in the hearts of those in this community for years to come.
“Also having opportunity for the kids here to know about Arthur Ashe and that he once walked this tunnel and he once walked this neighborhood,” Glass said. “And not so much that he was a tennis player, but that he was a humanitarian. So I think it`s important in knowing that Richmond breeds greatness.”
“I want them to get a sense of ownership, community pride -- especially knowing Arthur Ashe was all about that kind of pride,” Thornhill said.
Creators of the Unity Street Project are still accepting volunteers and donations to ensure the memorial is completed on time. Click here for information about how you can help.
The project will be unveiled to the public on Arthur Ashe's birthday on July, 10.