I met Kayla Diggs Brody at the Maggie Walker statue on a cloudy, cool autumn Saturday in October. I’ve known Kayla for a long time; she and her fiance’ (now husband) were my first official clients, way back in 2011, and before that we worked together at VCU. She’s always been a supporter of the arts and local artists in Richmond, and established Richmond Mural Tours to help continue that support and fill a need she saw in the city.
While taking the bus to and from work each day, Kayla noticed how many of the murals in Jackson Ward seemed to feature African Americans, and she realized that she didn’t know the people being featured, or their significance. She wondered who they were and started educating herself on the history of Jackson Ward and the murals that dot the neighborhood. She kept waiting for someone to start an educational tour of murals in the city, and then realized it wouldn’t happen unless she did it herself.
The tour route is just under 2 miles, but it takes about 2 hours to see the main cluster of murals situated between Broad and Leigh Streets. It winds through the neighborhood, through alleys and parking lots. Sir James Thornhill and Hamilton Glass pieces recognize leaders of the
“Black Wall Street of America.” We found a Nils portrait hidden behind a parking garage with a mural painted on its low ceiling.
Kayla hopes that Richmond Mural Tours will be able to educate visitors on the Jackson Ward murals, how the neighborhood developed, and who the important business leaders were/are in this historic area of Richmond.
Along with educating visitors on history, Kayla wants to engage the artists as much as she can. She hopes to include them in the curation of the tour, out of respect for them and their work. The predominant artists in this Ward are also residents of it, and have their lives invested in this neighborhood.
Kayla would eventually love to be able to help sponsor a mural, or to repair or install plaques at each mural to help educate viewers on what they’re seeing.
While the tours are family-friendly, very small walkers may not find the tours as interesting as those who can understand the significance of Richmond’s history or appreciate the grace and beauty of a spray can. Parents would know their children’s interest levels and could judge this best.
We ended our tour with the mural that Kayla likes to show last: the Girls for A Change mural on 1st Street. It’s an inspirational and beautiful last stop, a kind of call to action as you head off into the world at the end of the tour.
Ideal for art-lovers and history buffs, Richmond Mural Tours is perfect for tourists and locals who are interested in learning about the “Harlem of the South.” The art is intertwined with the history of our city and the important people who contributed to the success of the community through the years. Contact Kayla via her website and schedule a tour!