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bringing blue wolves downtown
by Emily Merrell, photography by Amy Long

Local artist Braden Walls recently brought classic New Orleans-style art with a local twist to Downtown Jonesboro.

Walls braved the harsh summer heat to paint four vibrant Blue Wolf murals on the Crescent City Lofts garages, which have quickly become a popular downtown photo destination. The murals are sure to be among the first of many captivating pieces for the 24-year-old artist, whose passion for the arts have led him to pursue a career in the field.

Although Walls has always had natural artistic ability, it wasn’t until fairly recently that he realized he had a future in it.

“I’ve always been able to draw well ever since I was a little kid, but I didn’t really get into art until about four years ago,” he said. “I was at a dead end in college and didn’t know what the heck I was doing or going to do. That’s when I stumbled upon the fine arts building and saw some student work hanging up in there and thought, ‘I can do that.’

“Next thing I know, I’m taking a drawing class and excelling. Then it just took off from there until I obtained my BFA in studio art. Now, after a year off from school, I’m heading to New Orleans to obtain my MFA at the University of New Orleans.”

How did the Blue Wolf murals come about?
The Blue Wolf murals actually came about through me contacting Dr. Dan Johnson about doing a very large mural on a building he owns downtown (which is in the near future). He also approached me with some ideas of painting the Crescent City Lofts garages; the back of Brickhouse, which I’m working on now; and even his own garage downtown. But, being pressed for time, the mural was put off, leaving time for the garages. With Dan’s background in New Orleans, me moving to New Orleans and us having a mutual love for the culture, we felt it’s only right to add a little bit of that to downtown. He wanted something like New Orleans artist George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog. I then came up with the idea to mix it with the red wolf, and the Blue Wolf was born. We wanted each garage to be different, so I took a little inspiration from Andy Warhol and switched up the color combinations.

How long did it take to complete the murals?
They took me about four days – around 40 hours or so to complete over the course of two weeks due to the rain.

What was the most challenging part of this project?
The most challenging part of painting the Blue Wolves was the heat.

Why do you think it is important to continue adding public art to the downtown area and to Jonesboro in general? I think Jonesboro needs a lot more public art all over. Of course, downtown is ideal for public art, just like any other medium- to large-sized city, but it’s always nice to see art any and everywhere. It livens up the space. It’s inspiring. It makes the place unique, and I think it’s important to have more public art, not only for those reasons, but for the kids – the future of art and everything else. Growing up seeing art everywhere as a kid will give them more of an appreciation for the arts, which in turn gives them more of an appreciation for creativity and innovation.

What artists have had the biggest influence on your work? My biggest influences are Picasso and Basquiat. It’s not just the work, it’s who they are. Picasso changed the way we look at art, which in turn changed the way we look at the world and ourselves. That’s huge. I want to do something like that. Basquiat is the definition of black America, and it’s such a wonderful thing. His work is amazing. I want my work to reflect the rawness of his.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to go into teaching at the college level once I’ve got my master’s. As for the future of my art, I’m really into hip-hop – always have been. I plan to be a very big name on the art side of things in that culture.

For more information on Walls’ art, visit bradenwalls.com, or find him on Instagram at @agramofbraden or on Facebook at Art by Braden Walls.