RICHMOND, Va. -- Bringing the community together by honoring the legacy of Maggie Walker, that was the goal of Richmond artist Colleen Hall with her latest mural at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School.
Designed and coordinated by Hall, the mural was a collaborative effort by more than 300 people including current students at the Governor’s School, along with alumni at Maggie L. Walker High School.
"It was very important for me to make it collaborative from start to finish," Hall explained.
The collaboration began in September 2018 when more than 125 people took part in an online survey about what should be included in the mural.
Current Governor School art students researched Walker’s life and came up with thumbnail sketches that Hall used to create the final design.
As a unique tie in for Maggie Walker, the creation of the fabric squares for the mural and paint parties to paint the mural took place in February during Black History Month and in March during Woman’s History Month.
More than 325 people took part in over 11 paint parties at the school including one paint party for alumni from Maggie L. Walker High School. Participants from the class of 1965 through 1977 painted on the mural panels alongside current Governor’s School students and alumni.
“What I like about this process is, not just the end product and it’s not just my voice, it brings other people’s voice into it, other people get to feel like they had a role in the making of it and the end product is something that a lot of people can share that pride.”
Walker, a Richmond native, was a civil rights pioneer, entrepreneur, teacher, and mother who pushed for economic empowerment and independence in her Jackson Ward neighborhood.
“Sometimes when you have an icon like her, you hear the name, but no one ever tells you the details about ‘why do we know her name and why is she special?’” said Hall.
The mural features a portrait of Walker, the words entrepreneurship, education and equality as well as a visual representation of some of her accomplishments like the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, the first bank founded by a woman, and The St. Luke Herald, a newspaper she founded.
Hall says every last detail of the mural is symbolic and has a specific meaning.
“She used to have these cut red roses outside her home. She became a very wealthy woman and had this great flair for style. That’s where the peacock feathers and pearls come in because she was very, very elegant.”
The mural also features a map of Jackson Ward, where Walker lived, a penny representing the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and a dragon, representing the mascot of the school.
“What I wanted was something vibrant in color that can grab your attention,” Hall explained. “Especially for the greater community. I hope that kids who have grown up in the area and the kids coming to school here are all going to ask more questions and be like ‘oh what does that mean.’”
Hall says she wanted the mural to convey a depth of knowledge about Walker and her accomplishments as well as a visual representation that could spark further exploration and pride from the community.
"Many women, especially women of color like Walker, helped to build this city and nation, but few have been celebrated in public art or monuments," she added.
In May, a celebration was held upon the competition of the mural. Attendees included Walker’s great-grandson, Dr. Johnny Mickens III, his daughter Liza Mickens, current students, school alumni, faculty, and parents.