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This ad sells hope and joy

Billboard Hope launches year two

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
This ad sells hope and joy
Artwork by Sharif Muhammad on display in January. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DAYENNE WALTERS

In March 2021, Roxbury-based artist Dayenne Walters launched an artistic takeover of a dilapidated billboard in John Eliot Square. Dubbed Billboard Hope, the project highlighted work by local artists of color, turning what had been a neighborhood eyesore into a dynamic and heartwarming piece of public art. Billboard Hope is now heading into its second year with a new home at the corner of Harrison and Dudley Streets.

“Boston has a small population of people of color percentage-wise, in comparison to other large cities, and we need to see ourselves in where we live,” said Walters at a recent talkback and fundraising event for the project. “Where we live needs to mirror the people that live there. This is a huge part of the project, placing ourselves in the conversation.”

Although Billboard Hope is currently operating in the space at the corner of Harrison and Dudley, Walters also hopes to find an additional space back in John Eliot Square where the initiative began.

The artists working with Billboard Hope touch on a range of issues, with a primary focus on local communities of color. In January, Sharif Muhammad exhibited a piece on Billboard Hope. In the artwork, a Black woman looks over her shoulder with an expression of peace and determination. Bold black lines radiate from her like powerful rays of sunshine.

In his artist’s statement, Muhammad says, “My artistic purpose is to represent, empower, uplift, glorify and convey the emotions of Black and brown people living in America. Putting the full Black and brown experience on display serves as a reminder for all, that we are multidimensional, brilliant, invaluable human beings. It is the emotional argument to dismantle all forms of racism.”

Billboard Hope is run primarily by Walters and a small but mighty support team. Walters would like to see the project grow into something larger that can be sustained by new generations and artists going forward. Ideally, more than one billboard could be utilized for this public art purpose, bringing the project into additional neighborhoods. The team is currently raising funds through the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston to support year two of the project. Donations can be made online.

Billboard Hope’s artists work to address societal issues and uplift communities of color, but also to bring joy to Roxbury. The artworks shown represent the strong bonds of the neighborhood. Walters says, “It’s lifeblood for community. Not everybody can create, but everyone can be energized by community.”