Mural style art is the oldest known form of artistic expression dating back to ancient cave paintings and petroglyphs marking the existence of early humans dating back to 700,000 BC. 18-year-old Chattanooga local, Rea Shaw, is a professional muralist. For Shaw, art is an avenue through which she can brighten her community by giving observers something meaningful to look at. Shaw spoke with us about her growing business as a muralist.
How did you begin creating murals professionally?
Shaw: I have always loved painting and working with larger-scale canvases, but it really started during quarantine. Being confined at home during the pandemic allowed me to experiment with my bedroom walls. I did a mural for my church and the next thing I knew, people were hiring me to paint in their homes.
Tell us about your experience painting the community mural.
Shaw: I painted a community mural on EPB’s substation wall at 10th and Foster Streets with the theme “Voices of MLK.” The project brought together a culmination of artists with various backgrounds to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and the black community as a whole, creating a message of social change. I was super excited about it because I had never done a job like this. I got to meet several different local artists and it was definitely a unique learning experience.
What do you think this type of art contributes to our local community?
Shaw: Art can be so subjective and to be able to have people of all ages see an art piece and find something in it that matters to them is my ultimate goal as an artist. I want my art to be relatable. My art style is cartoony and this element of my work is something I hope people of all ages can enjoy.
Murals can bring a lightness to the community. As a muralist, I feel it is my duty to make my community brighter with my artwork. Murals can add something beautiful to something boring and add something spectacular to everyday life. We enjoy art so that we might separate ourselves from the mundane and experience life “beyond what it is” by replacing it with what it can be in kaleidoscopic color.
What is next for you and your career?
Shaw: I am still a relatively new business, but I am trying to get better and take opportunities to figure out how to run the business side of my work. Right now, though, the biggest next step is to further develop my art style.
For information about Rea’s art, visit her website at https://www.artbyreas.com.