By Emma Castleberry
The first installment of the three-part Buncombe County Creative Equity Mural Project has been completed at 148 Hilliard Avenue. Eres un Orgullo Latino (You Are Latin Pride) was created by artist Leslie Reynalte-Llanco of Sketchonic Design with support from Gus Cutty and Kathryn Crawford. “The goal is for everyone to be able to peer into the lives of these community members and the pride that they feel to belong in this town that they helped build,” says Reynalte-Llanco. “The bold colors were chosen specifically to brighten up the whole street. The quotes in Spanish are also translated in English so that everyone could understand the meaning behind them.”
The Buncombe County Creative Equity Mural Project was initially suggested by Drew Reisinger, register of deeds for Buncombe County. “Buncombe County’s history is not only entrenched in colonization and slavery but also in the ongoing displacement of Black and brown communities over the last century,” he says. “It’s important to acknowledge that the prioritization of land-owning white folks in our national and local history has led to a double standard of who feels ‘at home’ in downtown Asheville. In the wake of the Vance Monument’s removal, this project is a step towards aligning the visual symbols of our civic landscape with our stated goals of honesty and equity in Buncombe County.”
The county released an open call for artists in October. Reynalte-Llanco learned about the project through a social media post and had to brainstorm her submission quickly to meet the deadline. “For me as an artist, inspiration strikes when I’m under pressure, so that very last week I had an epiphany,” she says. “It seemed natural to include faces because my specialty is portraiture with a semi-realistic spin on it. Thus, I chose characters that would represent different people from the Latino community.”
The Buncombe County Creative Equity Mural Project will include two more murals: one by Jared Wheatley of the Indigenous Walls Project that will be located on the parking deck at 164 Wall Street, and another by artist and designer Gabriel Eng-Goetz to be located on the Register of Deeds building at 205 College Street.
Reynalte-Llanco says she screamed when she found out she was one of the three artists selected for the project. “It is a different feeling when you get to display a message to the community in a visual way that people see when they pass or drive by that can’t be ignored–especially when that wall is 2,590 square feet in size,” she says. “The theme of the whole equity mural project is appropriate too, since our small town is growing. As a native, I can say that the Asheville that I knew is changing ever so quickly, and I hope that it’s for the best.
Large cities need their members to know that it’s because of them that such a beautiful town exists, and everyone should feel represented and included in the city they call home.”