The basketball courts at Patterson Park recently got a makeover after Baltimore-based artist and entrepreneur Jordan Lawson painted a mural depicting Baltimore rowhomes.
Baltimore Fishbowl talked with Lawson about his new mural, his artistic process, and his biggest inspirations.
Baltimore Fishbowl: How did you get involved with the Patterson Park mural project?
Jordan Lawson: It all started when a [Park School] high schooler, Darryl France, approached me. He saw the mural that I made in Patterson Park back in 2020 during the George Floyd uprising. Darryl played basketball in the park all the time, and I was down in the park every day that summer because I was coming to meet different people interested in my mural, to have conversations, take photos, things like that.
Along with inviting me to get involved with the project, Darryl also found a company called Project Backboard, a nonprofit with the mission of going into cities across the country to revitalize basketball courts. Project Backboard helped resurface the court and install game lines. With them, we were able to get help with the powerwashing, painting, all the things that go into resurfacing basketball courts.
BFB: Darryl reached out to you from your mural in 2020 —did the entire process take two years?
JL: It shows you how long it took for us to get to the finish line, but it was definitely worth it. Community impact is the main goal of my artwork, so I was immediately interested. The subject matter of the Patterson Park courts — Baltimore rowhomes — is so vibrant, and with the colors I used, the mural makes a positive impact on the community. When people come to the courts, they can be proud of playing on the courts and it just brings a pop of color to the neighborhood. After we finished the court in mid-October, we hosted a Kids Play Day on October 16th. I created t-shirts and coloring books of the mural to give out to kids to get them involved even more. We gave away over 150 coloring books.
BFB: When did you start doing art?
JL: I’ve been doing art all my life. I studied art in middle and high school, then my senior year of college at Towson University, my professor introduced me to entrepreneurship and the arts. I never knew that was an option. She told me about art shows, owning your own brand, and having your own company.
BFB: In addition to your art, you do business coaching and have a podcast. Can you tell me about your entrepreneurial ventures?
JL: I decided to get into business coaching because I realized, if you are an artist, you are an entrepreneur, you are a business owner. People don’t seem to put the two things together. There are a lot of opportunities an artist misses if they aren’t thinking like this. I think it’s my duty to teach the next artist from my mistakes, because then they don’t have to go through all the same trials and tribulations I went through. There just aren’t enough resources for artists in the business world.
BFB: In your artist statement on your website, you say you place a great emphasis on research in your work. What does that mean for you?
JL: When I do my artwork, I use a lot of references. I want to capture things accurately. I even did research for the rowhomes on the basketball court, even though I’m from Baltimore, and I know what rowhomes look like. I drove down different streets to study the different styles to make sure I’m encapsulating the essence of Baltimore rowhomes. When you see the mural, I want you to know it’s Baltimore.
BFB: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists, especially in Baltimore?
JL: The main thing that I always say to artists is to just be consistent. Always work on your craft. If you’re diligent in your work and staying true to your work, you will be ready when an opportunity comes. You have to be focused even when things don’t go your way. There are always a million more opportunities.
BFB: Who are your favorite artists?
JL: My two favorite artists of all time are Ernie Barnes and Jacob Lawrence. Ernie Barnes actually used to be an NFL player. After he retired, he became a painter. His painting is on the cover of Marvin Gay’s album “I Want You,” and he did all the paintings that are in the 70s sitcom “Good Times.” Jacob Lawrence’s style focuses on Black culture, using flat, simple shapes. Conveying complex ideas through simplicity is an amazing artistic phenomenon. I think I have that same style in my artwork.
BFB: What projects do you have on the horizon?
JL: I co-own a collective called Creatively Mindful. We’re based here in Baltimore, and we’re having our fifth-anniversary show, called “A Reason to Dress Up,” on November 5th at R. House. I’m also working on a personal series of four paintings called Champagne Flowers. It’s going to be a series of four paintings, showcased in 2023. There are also a couple of mural projects in the works.