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Keep an Eye on City Hall for RVA’s Next Public Art Project

City of Richmond, Performing Statistics unveil Freedom Constellations, public art project celebrating and supporting youth voice

The City of Richmond and cultural organizing nonprofit Performing Statistics have teamed up to give Richmond’s youth a space of reverence and reflection on the sides of Richmond’s City Hall.

Freedom Constellations, a multimedia public art project led by artist Mark Strandquist featuring two large banners flanking the Marshall Street and 9th Street sides of City Hall, will include two Richmond Public Schools students involved with RISE for Youth (Ta’Dreama McBride and Clyde Walker) voicing a group of local youth’s vision for a future where all youth are free.

When the exhibit is installed, 160-foot tall portraits will flank City Hall. As visitors hold smartphones up to the portraits, augmented reality animation and audio will display the young leaders’ dreams for the future as they articulate the investments they say will keep the community safe, healthy, and free. They will hear the words and voices of young people in the form of a co-written poem: “In a world without youth prisons. I walk down the streets and… I hear happiness in the community, and I feel safe…”

The experience will ask visitors to imagine a world where every young person feels empowered, free, heard and hopeful, growing up surrounded by the support and love they need to thrive.

Exhibit installation will begin at the end of June. Visitors will be able to experience Freedom Constellations starting in July, with the augmented reality experience located on the corner of 9th Street and Marshall Street.

“We must build a future where every young person feels unlimited in potential and unimpeded by the burdens of systemic racism and poverty,” said Mayor Stoney. “Freedom Constellations will be a beacon shining brightly from City Hall in support of that vision.”

Mark Strandquist is the lead artist for the project and creative director at Performing Statistics. “Covering the sides of city hall with interactive portraits of youth fighting to make Richmond a better place is exactly the kind of monumental public art that Richmond needs in this moment,” says Strandquist. “Through photography and augmented reality, Freedom Constellations elevates not singular historic voices, but a multitude of powerful and visionary youth in the city. We can never build that future if we can’t imagine it, illustrate it, design it, and youth need to be part of that process. These young leaders have given us all a huge gift; they’ve shared a beautiful blueprint for a Richmond where all youth have the support we all deserve. I hope we all use this as an opportunity to listen, learn, and find more ways to involve youth in all of our efforts to make the world and future a better place.”

Reggie Gordon, deputy chief administrative officer for human services for the City of Richmond, said Richmond is dedicated to facilitating the hopes and dreams that Freedom Constellations embodies. “Richmond’s youth provide a key voice in our conversation on building a more compassionate city, and I greatly look forward to the other conversations this monumental public art installation will inspire.”

Ta’Dreama McBride, a youth activist and subject of the public art installation, wants the public art project to inspired action. “Being a part of something that’s bigger than myself is just extraordinary,” said “I hope when you see this you’re inspired to make a change in your community – not just that, but a change in the world.”

This project was made possible by support from the City of Richmond Departments of Human Services, Social Services, Justice Services, Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities, the Richmond Police Department, Richmond Region Tourism and Venture Richmond.

To learn more about Performing Statistics, please visit PerformingStatistics.org.

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