RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — If you’ve ever been to Richmond, chances are you have seen one of Hamilton Glass’ colorful murals.

Glass has become a household name in the Richmond community because of his powerful visuals and advocacy work. However, Glass said he was very surprised to hear that his community had nominated him as a Richmond History Maker.

“To be recognized by your community is amazing,” Glass said.

Hamilton Glass
A colorful mural by Hamilton Glass of two women surrounded by flowers. (Photo provided by Glass)

Richmond History Makers is a program hosted by The Valentine that promotes and celebrates the bold, innovative and often unsung work of individuals and organizations who strive to improve their communities. This year, Glass was nominated as someone who is advancing the quality of life in Richmond.

“Looking back at my past, I knew the power of public art and how it could instill confidence and highlight really good community projects, and I just kinda mimicked what I grew up around,” Glass said. “So my work is community guided and it uses the power of art to uplift the community that I live and work in.”

Glass is a Richmond transplant but his ties to the River City run deep. His mother is from Richmond and Glass eventually found his way back to his roots after living in the northern part of the country.

During his teen years, Glass lived in Philadelphia where he remembers recognizing himself in many of the public art pieces around him.

“I didn’t go into art because I didn’t have a representation of living, working, breathing, artists,” Glass said. “The moment that I became an artist and aligned myself with this path, which is kind of by accident, or not, completely on me, I just wanted to be that representation of a living, working, breathing, successful artist. Especially to Brown and Black children.”

Hamilton Glass
Hamilton Glass puts the finishing touches on a mural that describes RVA. (Photo provided by Glass)

Currently, Glass is working on his project titled ‘Mending Walls.’ The project is in collaboration with the Community Foundation and Altria.

“It was a response to the murder of George Floyd and all of the protests and uprisings that happened last year,” Glass said. “The program puts together different artists from different cultures and backgrounds and they come together and have a talk about racial and social injustices.”

Hamilton Glass
Two people look at a mural painted by Hamilton Glass. (Photo provided by Glass)

The idea for the artists, Glass said, is to come together and have a platform for their voice while working along with someone who is of a different background. The end result is a public art piece that speaks to empathy and connection.

Last year, the ‘Mending Walls — A Healing Art project’ created 16 murals in the greater Richmond area. A podcast about the collaborative experiences is available and a documentary and book are set to be released this year.

Aside from his work in the community, Glass has also been asked by Richmond Public Schools to paint a number of murals inside schools — an experience Glass said is humbling.

“Murals are a great way for kids to think creatively,” Glass said.

In addition to the creative aspect, kids get to know Glass, someone who does something creative for a living. This sets an example, Glass said.

“The sky is the limit for them. They can do anything they want to do, no matter what stereotypes are out there,” Glass said.

The 16th Annual Richmond History Makers and Community Update will be virtual this year and will take place on March 9. You can register for a free ticket and learn more about The Valentine and the program on their website.