Moving Ahead With Broad Strokes
BY AMY GEISZLER-JONES
PHOTOS BY AARON PATTON
The artistic careers of Johnny Freedom and Delilah Reed received a big boost when they were approached several years ago to participate in a community art project that ended up inspiring what some may call mural mania in Wichita and elsewhere.
As a result of being early participants in the Douglas Design District’s Avenue Art Days, Freedom and Reed are just two examples of artists whose careers are now flourishing. Avenue Art Days was the brainchild of Janelle King, owner of The Workroom and champion of locally made art and Wichita-centric merchandise.
When King created the community art project in 2015, she initially encountered some resistance from business owners in the three-mile Douglas Design District near downtown Wichita who thought murals weren’t much different than graffiti. That thinking changed when they saw that the murals were drawing people to the district and their businesses to take selfies and other pictures.
Now murals and public art have become commonplace, leading to the end of Avenue Art Days in August 2022 and the progression of the careers of several artists such as Freedom and Reed.
The pair combined have painted dozens of murals in Wichita and other Kansas communities. Freedom recently added teaching artist to his resume while Reed’s success led to her opening a storefront that serves as both her personal studio and a retail store selling a curated collection of works by local artists.