‘The Different Skin Tones Are My Inspiration:’ Local Artists Respond to Black Lives Matter Movement

Dozens of local communities have commissioned murals and large-scale public art projects in response to a national dialogue on racial equity.

Petaluma and Sebastopol recently debuted large-scale public art projects, joining dozens of other communities that have commissioned similar works in response to a national dialogue on racial equity.

In Petaluma, 16 artists worked together to paint a 250-foot Black Lives Matter mural on the street in front of the library. Each letter portrays a different theme, from a stylized representation of African mud cloth to a portrait of civil rights hero John Lewis.

Artist Kristi Quint was motivated to participate because of her 6-year-old son, who is Black. Her design features a child’s smiling face with tan, brown, and black beams radiating outward in a sunburst shape. “The different skin tones are my inspiration,” Quint said. “I wanted to represent the mixed families in Petaluma and the important conversations we are having in our house, our schools, our community.”

Sebastopol’s mural is painted across a walkway in the town plaza in yellow block letters surrounded by multicolored handprints. At the installation in July, a socially-distanced line stretched across the plaza as locals waited to dip their hand in paint and leave their mark.

Dezi Kai, a senior at Analy High School and one of the project’s organizers, says the mural is of special significance in Sebastopol, where few Black residents live. “A lot of us kind of feel not seen in our community and in our schools,” said Kai, who is Black. “This was a way to say, ’Hey, we’re here.’”