Modern Changemaker: Richmond artist educates community one mural at a time

Modern Changemaker: Richmond artist educates community one mural at a time
Sir James Thornhilll has painted numerous murals in Jackson Ward. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You've probably heard the phrase "paint the town red."

Well, one Richmond man paints the town red, green, yellow, or whatever other color he feels is fitting.

His name is Sir James Thornhill, and this artist is helping to change and educate the community one mural at a time.

If you've spent any time in Jackson Ward, you've probably seen a Jamaican-inspired mural at the corner of 2nd and Marshall.

This was Thornhill's first mural in this neighborhood, and one mural eventually turned into "One, two, three, four five - I got about eight in Jackson Ward now, and I have three on the table," he said.

His work adds a splash of color and character to several corners within this historic community, with many of his murals featuring notable figures in Black history.

Thornhill's love of art began when he was a child growing up here in Richmond.

"During the summertime, I found something really unique. The teachers used to throw crayons, pencils, and paper in the dumpster. So, I came with my little red wagon, and I collected all of this paper and stuff and brought it home. My mama was like 'You didn't steal that, did you?' I said, 'Mama I got it from the dumpster,'" said Thornhill.

With masterpieces now lining street corners and art galleries, his dumpster diving days are long gone.

However, he'll never forget his love of art as a child, which is why he also teaches art and photojournalism to more than 500 area children a year through the Mayor's Youth Academy.

"They need to see that if he can do it, I can do it," said Thornhill. "If you don't give back, then what is your purpose in life?"

Thornhill believes his purpose is to paint the community, as well as teach it about its past as it moves into the future.

He plans to continue doing that with lots of paint and positivity.

"It's all about giving our public, our community. Something to see besides violence and tagging and destruction of buildings," said Thornhill.

Thornhill has several artistic projects in the works, including painting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. near the MLK Bridge in Richmond.

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