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Up next on Billboard Hope: DaNice D. Marshall

Art of Roxbury native on display in John Eliot Square this September

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Up next on Billboard Hope: DaNice D. Marshall
“Free Knowledge Must Bring Your Own Container” by DaNice D. Marshall. COURTESY PHOTO

When Billboard Hope launched in John Eliot Square in March 2021, founder Dayenne Walters was testing the artistic waters of the project. Months later, the billboard has brought a vital source of hope and inspiration to the Roxbury community. In September, Roxbury native DaNice D. Marshall will show her work on the large-scale surface.

Marshall began painting in 2016, at a point she thought would be the end of her life. “I got sick, and I was in the hospital for 28 days,” she says. When she was miraculously released, the medical staff warned her not to do anything stressful or rigorous, as that would incite her illness. “I picked up a paintbrush and I started painting,” she says, “and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

While 2020 was a challenging year globally, it was a good year for Marshall’s art career. She had a solo show at Piano Craft Gallery in September and received notice of her Billboard Hope commission. She also had a story published in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book centered on Black women’s voices.

Marshall’s Billboard Hope piece radiates joy. From Aug. 30 through Sept. 26, “Free Knowledge Must Bring Your Own Container” will grace the John Eliot Square display. The painting, which has been digitally converted for the billboard, shows a young girl reading a book. A flower grows out of the book and a bird rests on another stack of books nearby. Adults surround the reader, a feature that demonstrates a supportive and nurturing community. Every figure’s mouth is wide open in an ecstatic smile.

The artist grew up around the corner from the square. She remembers seeing cigarette and alcohol ads there while walking to school. Now, local artists have taken back those negative advertisements and created beautiful artwork for their community.

Billboard Hope’s Walters says, “I feel like it’s a response to all the gentrification we’re seeing in the neighborhood. It really is about raising issues and representation. It’s so much more than just a billboard, because of the work these artists have put in.”

The billboard is currently booked out with artists through the end of April 2022, and thanks to grants from the New England Foundation for the Arts and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, the project will likely run another year. Walters hopes to establish Billboard Hope as a long-term fixture of the Roxbury arts scene and as a destination in the neighborhood. She welcomes input from the community about organization structure and fundraising.

Marshall’s painting and Billboard Hope itself are rooted in bringing joy to the Roxbury neighborhood. “I want to paint positive,” says Marshall. “I want people to feel that hopefulness.”