In West Side mural, a dancing garden aims to show we all should have a chance to ‘bloom’
Byron Taylor, a Chicago artist known as B’Rael Thunder, painted ‘Sowing Seeds’ at a legal aid clinic. He says all of us need a chance to become ‘a greater version of ourselves.’
It’s exactly that in his mural “Sowing Seeds” on an exterior wall at the Westside Justice Center, a free legal clinic at 601 S. California Ave.
He tells students that people come together to form, in essence, an ecosystem.
And, in the mural, they do. He has dancers dressed in yellow and orange, resembling a sunflower. Children seeming to sprout from seeds. Outstretched arms forming a tree. And two people, as roses, meditating.
At the top, he’s emblazoned the words “Love is Law.”
Taylor, 29, painted the mural in the fall of 2020, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and after the civil unrest that followed the killing in Minneapolis of a Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white cop.
Taylor says that, with “Sowing Seeds,” he tried to get across the message that, “no matter which neighborhood” you’re from, all people should have the chance to “bloom into a greater version of ourselves.”
And there was a more literal message, too: “We need more gardens on the South Side. We need more gardens on the West Side. We need more gardens throughout Chicago.”
He works with high school students and says that, through his art and teaching, he has an outsized aim: to try to help make “the world a safer place.”
The mural has brought life to a “pretty nondescript building,” says Tanya D. Woods, executive director of the Westside Justice Center, a not-for-profit that provides free legal aid, help for clients wanting to learn more about the law and advocacy for people, particularly Black people and others of color, living in “over-policed and highly criminalized” communities including its own neighborhood, which is among the highest-crime areas in the city.
“The mural has so many images of hope, of promise, of people working together,” she says. “Most importantly, this idea of sowing seeds that then will bear fruit and a harvest of something wonderful to come in a place.”
Taylor says dance is a big part of the art he creates and that Alvin Ailey, the renowned dancer and choreographer who died in 1989, was a big influence.
He likens movement and dance to social change and says he employs dance in his art to represent progression.
In “Sowing Seeds,” each figure is in motion, the sunflower people and the blue figures, representing water, all lifting their arms in dance.
“Dance changed my life,” says Taylor, who’s been working as an artist for about 15 years and says he has developed some of his closest relationships through dance. “Everything about life is movement.
“We have to move. We have to continue to evolve. We can’t stay stagnant.”
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art. More murals added every week.