RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Jake Van Yahres, one of Richmond’s most prominent artists, recently teamed up with some younger collaborators to make a new mural in Battery Park.
“The idea came about after my Kobe piece,” Yahres said.
In February 2020, Yahres made a temporary mural out of paper at the basketball courts of the Randolph Community Center in honor of Kobe Bryant. In May 2021, he worked with the Community Center to rebuild the mural with waterproof paper to make it more permanent.
The connections he made in that collaboration eventually led to him being contacted for a whole new collaboration with the Mural MOBB (Making Our Buildings Beautiful). The Mural MOBB is a program organized by the City of Richmond Parks and Recreation. The program aims to provide high school students with opportunities to create works of art that go on buildings around the city.
9th grader Leah Johnson is one of the members of the program. “It makes me happy that people get joy out of it,” she said about the mural.
To 10th grader Jordan Felder, a lot has gone into the mural besides the bright paint they brushed on the court.
“We’ve added beauty to the court and added color and depth to the community,” she told 8News.
Mural MOBB’s first project was designing welcome signs in preparation for Mayor Levar Stoney’s visit to the Randolph Community Center. Yahres was tapped by the City of Richmond Parks and Recreation to head the next project and teens were selected to take part.
Yewandé Lewis is the co-leader of the Mural MOBB program. She said the program isn’t just about painting murals. It’s a real job the students are interviewing for, showing up to and getting paid for.
“It does give the youth an opportunity to do something different, an opportunity to do something they feel connected with,” she said.
Mural MOBB member Jay Anthony Campbell said the Jordan mural will be a part of his legacy.
“It’s always going to be on this concrete,” he said. “No matter how hard they play. No matter how hard they rip up this court. It’s still going to be there. Always.”
Yahres looked at a number of different locations for the mural and eventually settled on Battery park. He wanted an area with high visibility so he chose the basketball courts.
“You come down the hill to enter Battery Park,” he said. “So you’re looking at [the courts] from a birdseye view. I had the idea of using the center circle as a ball and from there, I guess the concept took flight.”
The mural concept evolved into an overhead action shot of Michael Jordan gliding toward the hoop in his iconic outstretched dunk position.
“Everybody knows Michael Jordan,” Yahres said. “He was my hero before Kobe.”
Yahres and his sister outlined the mural beforehand and simplified it to a paint-by-numbers style design. Then the Mural MOBB was brought in and the painting began.
“It was like 90-something degrees but the kids were great,” Yahres said. “The whole project worked together so seamlessly. It was perfect.”
The project was finished in about a day and a half, beginning on Wednesday and finishing early in the afternoon on Thursday. The City of Richmond Parks and Recreation also paid the students for their work.
“It was a super collaborative process,” Yahres said. “Great people behind it for sure.”
The Mural MOBB is working on another sports mural in Battery Park with artist Mel Basi that could be finished before the end of the month.
Basi said working with the youth is a true honor.
“I believe they should be given options, which leads them to extraordinary opportunities,” he said. “As a creator, there’s no limitations to your vision. Tap in with yourself, clear your mindset, and operate on the destiny that’s been given to you.”