It was only a couple of years later that Curator of Public Art Aaron Ott asked Thomas Evans, aka Detour, to participate in the collaborative mural project Cobblestone Commons, which will feature the work of twelve different artists when it is completed.
Detour, a Denver-based artist who has created works all over the world, is known for large murals, often featuring portraits. With a father in the military, “home” changed frequently. Art was a way of making friends. Detour would draw the portraits of friends and teachers. It became a habit. In the same way that a drawing could be an exchange that formed a connection, his murals often grow out of the communities in which they are located.
“That's kind of what public art, street art is all about, making those connections and using the landscape as a gallery—but also being informative and letting people know who's in your community and relevant,” he says.
After Detour's involvement in Cobblestone Commons was announced, the Buffalo-based artist (and co-curator of the upcoming special exhibition In These Truths) Edreys Wajed reached out and mentioned a few names of possible portrait subjects. Kelly Galloway stood out immediately. Detour says, “When she popped up, I was like, I definitely have to paint her.”
“This was a great person,” Detour states, “someone who's doing a lot of volunteer work and community activation, working on human trafficking.” The wall could become a message to the city: here’s someone you should know. “Having someone like her gracing that wall is super important, because it shows representation, shows community togetherness, shows something more than just having pretty artwork.”
Aitina Fareed-Cooke (another co-curator of In These Truths), photographed Galloway for a reference image, and working from that Detour produced the painting on South Park Avenue in his signature style of striking, dreamlike color.
Galloway meanwhile was organizing the FreeTHEM Walk, a 902-mile journey from Lynchburg, Virginia, to Buffalo, New York, following the historic path of the Underground Railroad to draw attention to modern day forms of slavery, and then she was off to Guatemala for another RAMP initiative. But when she got back, the mural was there.
“The artwork can connect you, and in ways that are deeper than just words,” says Detour.
“I don't feel like my face being up there that it's just about me. I feel like it's more about my movement. And that movement is for freedom,” Galloway says, “When it comes to bringing freedom to other people, I feel like my city supports me.”
Galloway tells us, “The Underground Railroad was a network of freedom that allowed freedom seekers in the past to make safe passage to Canada, passing right through the place that we call home, Western New York. Underground Railroad was made of black people, white people, tall people, so our people, men, women, people of all different faith groups.” For those people still in slavery, it will take a similar chain of humanity, whether we live in Buenos Aires or Denver, Thessaloniki or Buffalo, using our time, talent, and treasure to help answer the call to free them.
If you feel called, please consider donating and supporting the work that Project Mona's House does. Click here to learn more.