International artist paints mural in downtown Jackson that calls for an end to gun violence

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 10:21 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - An international artist stopped in Jackson this weekend, leaving behind a mural that calls for an end to gun violence.

Artist Kyle Holbrook spent the last eight months touring all 50 states and painting similar murals. He often uses the color orange in his work because it’s the official color of gun violence awareness.

His stop in Jackson fell on the same weekend that the city surpassed 100 homicides. The Capital City is on pace to have its deadliest year in history.

Gun violence is a personal issue for Holbrook who is originally from the Wilkinsburg area of Pittsburgh. Over the course of his life, it has taken away 45 of his friends and loved ones.

“Sometimes when I think of this number, it’s daunting,” he said. “But yeah, 45 of my friends, best friends at certain times of my life. And then I get a new best friend or other friends, and it’s just been consistent.”

He said he used to suppress all that pain by using his art as a distraction, but now he’s using it as a healing mechanism.

“This gun violence has really been escalating,” Holbrook said. “What I’ve seen is the victims and perpetrators have been younger and younger. And so I really wanted to do something to connect all these different cities and all our states around the country because this is a real epidemic we have going on in America.”

His most recent mural is near the intersection of Pascagoula and Roach Street, and it’s on a wall that’s filled with other positive words like “better together,” “friendly,” and “a city of life.”

He chose to illustrate a “peace sign” for a reason.

“The gun doesn’t shoot itself. It’s the hands that are using these guns as weapons against other human beings,” Holbrook said. “To show the hand now throwing up a peace symbol, I think there’s symbolism in that, you know, using your hands for something positive as I’m using my hands to create the artwork.”

Holbrook said he’s done murals as big as 20 stories tall but chose to keep this one small in hopes that people take pictures in front of it and spread positivity.

He has 10 states left to go on his tour. His hope is that his work sparks conversation about what needs to be done to bring an end to gun violence not just here in Jackson but across the country.

Holbrook formed a non-profit in 2002 called, “Moving the Lives of Kids (MLK) Community Mural Project.”

The public arts organization focuses on the arts, youth development, and education. His vision was to use public art as a way to reach kids over the summer months to do positive community work when they aren’t in school, according to the organization’s website.

The official unveiling for the mural is Wednesday, September 8, at 11 a.m.

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