GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The 49507 Project is a Black, Brown, Queer, and youth-led initiative, commissioning artists to make something beautiful in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Murals are popping up on Division, Kalamazoo Avenue, and Madison just to name a few.
Not only does the art add a lot of beauty and life to a street and building, but it also starts conversations. The next mural is being dreamed up right now, and for the artist, it's her biggest work yet.
Wanda Moreno-Aguilar felt different growing up as a DACA recipient in West Michigan. Art is her outlet.
"It's very expressive and fun. And I don't have to talk about it. I just draw it out. And that's the fun part," said Moreno-Aguilar.
Wanda was chosen for the project by her professors at Kendall College of Art and Design. She studies illustration and hopes to one day make children's books.
"I've been inspired by my experiences as a minority. I came to the United States when I was about four or five. And from then I've kind of had a unique experience here in the United States, obviously, with everything that's going on," said Moreno-Aguilar.
The blank brick wall on the side of Farmer's Insurance on Eastern Avenue doesn't look like much right now, but soon, it will be Wanda's biggest canvas yet.
Everyone driving or walking up and down the busy street in the Alger Park neighborhood will see her art. Just across the street, another mural in the project meant to get people talking.
"It's definitely beautiful. It definitely makes me feel like I can do that as well. I've seen other artists of color, doing things like this for the community. And then the opportunity comes to me, I feel like I can do it. I feel like it's, it's a space that I'm comfortable working in," said Moreno-Aguilar.
Wanda didn't want to give any spoilers about what exactly she's going to create on that wall. It's a project she can't wait to stand in front of hand in hand with her 3-year-old son, Noe.
"It's my motivation and inspiration to keep going because now I have someone that inspires me, not just my own experiences, but my son, too," said Moreno-Aguilar.
The 49507 Project artists attend listening sessions before creating each mural to make sure it reflects what the neighborhood wants. The nonprofit the Diatribe has created this project as part of its mission to use performing arts to empower young people to share their stories, raise awareness of social issues, and create change within their communities.
Moreno-Aguilar will put her paintbrush to the wall in June. She invites you to paint with her. If you'd like to do that, you can message her on Instagram @WanditaAguilar. To learn more about the Diatribe and the 49507 project, click here.