Public art addresses complex social issue with optimism in the ViBe District. “Domestic violence is something that we know is multidimensional and complex.” – Eva Fuze, Samaritan House
A new mural has made a major impression along 17th Street in the ViBe Creative District. Painted in October 2018 for the Samaritan House’s #Paint757Purple campaign, the artwork is intended to spark public dialogue regarding Domestic Violence, empower individuals to take action to support the cause and encourage victims to reach out for help via the hotline number painted prominently alongside the art. Eva Fuze, Samaritan House’s Marketing and Events Coordinator and artist Devon Miller share insight into this important cause and the ability of artwork to address important issues.
Where did the idea to Paint 757 Purple come from?
Samaritan House: In past years, our recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month was focused around specific events, designed to bring the community together to honor survivors and those who have lost their lives due to domestic violence. We saw an opportunity to reach even more of Hampton Roads by creating a campaign that amplifies our voice with the help of local businesses. We called this movement Paint 757 Purple as our initiative to incorporate purple (the color representing domestic violence awareness) into what businesses already do best. The idea to take a literal interpretation of “painting” 757 purple came from conversations with local business owner and politician, David Nygaard. He had approached us in hopes of hosting a domestic violence round table, and through brainstorming, the idea for a public art piece to symbolize the campaign was brought up. We engaged the local artist community with a call to artists and were so impressed by the personal statements and submissions for designs. Domestic violence is such a deeply personal topic, one that is both difficult to talk about yet so very crucial to bring to light. Through the ViBe Creative District, the City of Virginia Beach has done a wonderful job at embracing murals and an emphasis on the arts, but a mural tied to a specific cause was truly an innovative concept.
Wall space on far left was donated by Superior Pawn and The Annex in the ViBe District. Photograph courtesy of the ViBe Creative District.
What drew you to this project?
Artist Devon Miller: This was the first mural I’ve seen in the area that directly addresses a social issue like this, which peaked my interest – however, it’s honestly completely out of my usual scope of work. Some of the best art opens up a dialogue, so I thought why not see what I could come up with that may fall in line with what Samaritan House wants to share with the community. I took this as an opportunity to challenge myself and create a piece with more depth than some of my usual work, and hopefully help people in the process.
The completed Paint757Purple Campaign mural by artist Devon Miller in the ViBe District. Photography courtesy of George Vu.
What about the chosen design best interpreted the mission of Samaritan House?
Samaritan House: We received close to a dozen truly remarkable artist submissions for the mural project. The artists were men and women from all different artistic backgrounds, some choosing to share personal experiences with the issue of domestic violence as part of the inspiration for their design. We were blown away by the care and attention each artist took to put together their ideas for this blank canvas on The Annex building. What stood out most to us about Devon’s design, one of strength and unity of the fists raised with a colorful, vibrant background on sunbeams stretching out into the sky, was that it held a level of symbolism we had not predicted. We had been initially visualizing a face or a person clearly as the focal point of the mural, but when we saw Devon’s submission, it opened our minds to the idea of the fists in the air being something more universal and perhaps unifying for those who experience the mural. Domestic violence is something that we know is multidimensional and complex. No two stories are the same, and victims of violence are often apprehensive to seek help or even identify their situation as being domestic violence because for too long it has been swept under the rug and minimized by their abuser. We want people to connect with the emotions and the themes of what it means to be a survivor. The initial design featured what would be largely interpreted as all female hands, with nails painted or bracelets, but we worked with Devon to include what would be recognized as a male hand, as well as a child’s, to convey the truth that not all victims of abuse are female. We know that 1 in 3 women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime, but 1 in 4 men will also experience the same.
Explain how the artwork incorporates the greater goals of the community project.
Artist Devon Miller: My initial vision when reading the call for artists was of the fists – I was looking for a subject that would feel empowering, inclusive, and hopeful. Domestic Violence is a serious issue, so there was a balance that needed to be found between addressing it head on while still keeping the overall tone positive. The strength of the fists, along with the sun and floral background to reflect positive change, was my solution.
Artist Devon Miller with Samaritan House’s Eva Fuze. Photography courtesy of George Vu.
What has the public response been during the #Paint757Purple campaign?
Samaritan House: We are very pleased with the growth and excitement for the Paint 757 Purple campaign this year! We had everything from purple cocktails at Back Deck, Bubba’s, Dough Boy’s Pizza and Abbey Road, to purple sweets at My Vegan Sweet Tooth, Sugar Shack. Many other businesses participated by donating a portion of sales throughout the month or on a specific day to Samaritan House. We doubled the number of participating businesses this year and are hopeful that it continues to grow in future years. While we are excited about this growth, more important to us than a total dollar amount raised is the exposure this campaign has allowed us to have in our community. If just one person sees Devon’s mural in the ViBe, or a Paint 757 Purple poster at their hair salon, coffee shop, or even their own place of employment, and decides it’s time to break the cycle of violence and call the hotline number to get help, the campaign was a success. You simply can’t put a dollar value on that.
What has the response been to the artwork?
Artist Devon Miller: I received an overwhelming amount of positive comments on the mural while working – lots of people stopped by and asked about the meaning behind the design, opening up a conversation about Samaritan House and the #paint757purple campaign. It was a great opportunity to direct them to the website for more information (and how they can get involved) and let them know about other nearby businesses participating in the campaign.
Describe the unveiling celebration.
Amy Longacher, owner of Superior Pawn, and Megan Hogan, owner of The Annex Collaborative Studio, donated so much more than their wall to us. They invited us to be part of the conversations they have with customers, creating a safe space for those affected by violence. They offered to host an unveiling party to celebrate with Samaritan House supporters, Paint 757 Purple businesses as well as the general public to snap photos in front of the mural and learn more about Samaritan House beyond simply the local crisis hotline number. We want people to recognize that there are local resources right here, with people who truly care about lending a helping hand on the other side of that first phone call or inquiry for resources, and that we take our jobs very seriously. While the issue of domestic violence is a very serious topic, the celebration of survivors and the platform to share about local resources for support and housing is something we wanted to be joyous and light. We hope it has been cathartic for survivors who joined us at the unveiling part or have chosen to make a trip to check out the mural since.
Samartian House Paint757Purple mural unveiling party. Photography courtesy of George Vu.
What do you hope is the lasting impression of this mural?
Artist Devon Miller: I hope that this opens up a continued dialogue about domestic violence, and in turn helps build support for Samaritan House – like I had mentioned before, it isn’t an easy or casual topic to address, so anything to open up that dialogue and encourage the sharing of stories and experiences has the opportunity to help someone in need. When working, I was surprised to hear quite a few stories where people knew someone that has received assistance from Samaritan House – it was great to hear that everyone knew of the organization and the work they are doing.
Samaritan House: The response so far has been incredibly positive, which leaves the question… where will the next #Paint757Purple mural find its home?