Artist/Activist Lopi LaRoe (a.k.a. LMNOPI) created a nearly four-story mural facing Rutland’s new Center Street Marketplace Park on the back wall of the former Strand Theater adjacent to Roots –The Restaurant. This new public artwork imagines a world where all children are nurtured and cherished equally, and it is dedicated to uplifting the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community in Vermont, according to a news release July 14.
Offering a blend of beauty, resilience, and hope, the large scale mural intersects ideas of community, love, and race.
MKF Properties’ Mark Foley, who was approached by the artist about the project several weeks ago, said Lopi has imagined a powerful and striking piece; and like other murals and sculptures, would add to the vibrancy of downtown, and inspire community connections.
“If it fosters some positive conversations, our community and people will be the beneficiaries,” Foley said. “Art provokes thought, challenges and uplifts us, and that’s exactly what this piece does for me, and I hope for the community.”
This new mural adds to a growing list of public artwork throughout downtown Rutland, honoring the city’s history and community spirit. Support for this newest work came from several community organizations and businesses including MKF Properties, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Roots –The Restaurant, Rutland Blooms, Green Mountain Power, and The Vermont Community Foundation.
The mural’s title, “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until it Comes,” is a quote from a song composed by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, the founding member of vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock, inspired by the words of civil rights leader and SNCC mentor Ella Josephine Baker.
“Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes”
The artist shared some of her views on the massive civil rights uprising currently underway in our country, and said, “It is when the Anglo American realizes that our own liberation is bound up in the liberation of all people that we really start to wake up to the reality of what life is like for our Black, Brown and Indigenous relatives as they move though our shared world, confronted daily by the hard edifice of calcified and institutionalized racism and everyday biases.
“In truth, the statement that “Black Lives Matter” is absolutely the bare minimum, yet some people still take umbrage at this simple phrase. Black People do more than matter. They deserve respect, love, trust, nurturing and most importantly: protection.
“I hope that by creating this mural in the commons of downtown Rutland, our BIPOC community members, especially the kids, will feel seen, appreciated, welcomed and to know that we are fighting for a better world for them.
“This mural is an act of love. Let it serve as a rallying cry for those of us who believe in freedom.”
The official unveiling of the completed mural will happen as part of an opening reception to be held in the courtyard of Center Street Marketplace Park on Monday, July 20 at 6 p.m.