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Art and Empowerment Mural

Learn About the Mural in This Story by Higher Education Channel

HEC-TV Mural Story Video Still

Better Family Life mural

The first part of the Art and Empowerment Mural

The mission of the Cultural Center is to “…provide cross cultural and diverse learning…”  The mission of the Cultural Arts department is “to create programs and activities, and provide information that exemplifies the cultural and artistic traditions of people of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas.”  The Art and Empowerment mural embodies these missions through its vibrant, engaging depiction of the rich cultural heritage of continental Africa and the African Diaspora. Painted by Gonz Jove, with assistance from his son Alex, the 96-foot long mural is the largest Black history mural in Missouri, and the second largest mural in the state.

A 10-part curriculum will accompany the mural, along with an audio script for a self-guided tour. 

Begun in late 2013 and finished September 2016, the Art and Empowerment mural depicts the rich cultural heritage of Africa and the African Diaspora. It engages the viewer in the history of the struggles, accomplishments, and resilience of the African Diaspora descendants, and the relevance of this information to American life and history. 

Jove noted: “This is a visual timeline that takes the viewer from the dawn of humanity to the rise of human civilization, through periods of resistance, oppression and celebration; ending with depictions of a great people who helped shape the world we live in today.” The mural is a strong source of inspiration, pride, enlightenment and empowerment. It shows a more comprehensive and accurate history than what most of the public is familiar with regarding the history of Africa and her descendants. We believe that it will inspire those who lack hope and faith in themselves to see that success is possible and within their grasp; that with steadfast tenacity, even one individual can make an impact on the world that changes the course of humanity.

The Art and Empowerment mural is designed to express human history from the perspective that the heritage of African Americans did not begin during the period in which Africans and their descendants were enslaved, or even during the Civil Rights era. It clearly states that Africa was the birthplace of humanity from which incredibly powerful civilizations developed. This provides a much more complete story of a legacy of greatness. It illustrates a well-researched, comprehensive and accurate history of Africa and her descendants in a thematic panel format.

About the Lead Artist Gonz Jove

Better Family Life Mural Lead Artist Gonz Jove

Art and Empowerment Mural Lead Artist Gonz Jove

Jove is an internationally renowned artist who was born in 1955 in La Paz, Bolivia. When he was ten years old, his family immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri. Jove began drawing and painting at an early age and completed his pre-collegiate education at St. Francis de Sales High School. He later formalized his art studies in 1978 by earning a Bachelors of Fine Art at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. Jove’s degree focused upon sculpture, but his portfolio features a wonderful array of paintings, drawings and mural art. While at the university he also undertook extensive coursework in architecture and mathematics. His interest in these areas of study are reflected in his art style, which features colorful architectural designs and intricate multiple perspectives. He is represented in local, national and international art galleries and has been included in national and international exhibits. 

His mural career excelled in 2007 when his painting “Usurpacion del Boliviano” (The Usurpation of the Bolivian) was selected by the Bolivian government to be translated into a major mural. The work was installed on El Prado, the main boulevard in Bolivia’s capitol city, La Paz. “I see murals as expressions of the world in which we live. They create a visual language that transcends time and creates visual dialogues of social, cultural, and sometimes controversial issues that develop a shared social conscience. My function, as the artist, is to communicate these stories with the license of art,” Jove, 2012. The African American and Empowerment mural encapsulates his philosophy in a dynamic panoramic view of African and African American history.

The major themes are depicted in chronological order, from the panel depicting the early beginnings of humankind on the far left, to current events and a vision of the future at the far right. They are as follows:

  • Humanity’s Origin
  • Observations in the Solar System and Migration by the Stars
  • Ancient Egypt/Nubia
  • West Africa
  • The Maafa (Middle Passage)
  • Arrival to the Americas
  • African Enslavement
  • Movements to Liberation
  • The 20th Century- Subdivided into:
    • The Early Years
    • The Harlem Renaissance
    • Civil Rights
    • The Black Arts Movement
    • Black Power Movements
    • A New Era into the Twenty-First Century
Support for the mural was provided by the Regional Arts Commission, Emily Pulitzer, the Saint Louis Art Museum, Dick Blick Materials, Morrison Brickwork, Ace Rental and Sales, and many individual donors.

More Photos of the Mural

Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural

Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural in the making

Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural

Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural in the making

Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural

One portion of the Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural

Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural

One portion of the Better Family Life Art and Empowerment Mural