Victim: Ronald J. Wilford, 10/13/2021

This is a painted portrait for the deceased son of Donna Boyd; Arnold Jones. Within this portrait, I prioritized the use of colors Cobalt Blue, Crimson Red, and High Yellow. All of these colors have a symbolic reason for being chosen: The color Blue was said to be Arnold Jones’s favorite color in which I chose the Cobalt Blue shade due to its dark hue and it portrays a cold mysterious type of visual. This is to represent the cold world that Arnold lived in and how it would come to become a part of him. The shade gets lighter as it gets closer to the heart as he was a loving pure person to those he loved which was his family.

I chose High Yellow words due to how yellow is the most attention-grabbing color and how it shouts who Arnold Jones was as it gets closer to his heart. From outside to inside can be considered how he would carry himself to who he was at his core. The Crimson Red color was chosen simply because it is the same hue as our blood itself and Arnold was always true to himself to his very roots. Additional symbolism would be the Yellow outline of the heart and the Cobalt Blue drips beneath it. The yellow is to show that a bunch of people knew Arnold and cared for him and the Blue drips are the sorrow of those who wept at his passing. I did not use any other artworks or ideas for inspiration. This is a completely original art piece.


Victim: Kristin Hamilton-Arthur 7/15/17

In my art, I captured the representation of the life lived by Kristian Hamilton-Arthur and the sad end of it taken away by gun violence. My art incorporates his religious faith in Allah with the Islamic symbol of a green crescent moon and star. I also showed the symbolism of the heart being split apart with a bullet; dollar bills in the crease represent the success and growth he was adamant about. On the right side of the heart, I incorporated an Adinkra symbol of Intelligence, which portrays perfectly how Kristian carried himself and how determined he was to succeed before his untimely death. I created this piece with a technique I used similar to water color painting, which creates an Ombre effect in the colors. My inspiration comes from my everyday life and emotions. I like to express myself through art to show the world my internal expression of beauty.


This painting is more of a remembrance type of painting. I wanted to focus on all of the fun, cool moments and successes in life. This painting is about Tyeece Lovett, a 21-year-old man who was the life of the party, a peace maker and a teacher to many. I wanted to highlight his favorite colors, which were blue, green and white. The color blue stands for peace; I wanted to give it more of a happy sunny-day style for like a calm and peaceful feeling.

The objects in the picture deal with what made Tyeece him, and, whenever you think of him, you think of a lot of these great things in this project. The helmet stands for his love for the sport of football, I used yellow and black for his team when he was a kid. The next object I drew was a pit bull; I used the color white as a base to give the dog a confident look and feeling. The drawing of Tyeece on a dirt bike stands for his love of dirt bikes, and I tried to closely color them the same as it was when he was a kid. When it came to the Mustang, I wanted to make sure I included a dream of his, the reasoning on the color is to have something that would pop and grab the viewer’s attention. Lastly the graduation cap stands for his graduation—it stands for one great goal in life and a time of happiness and celebration.

For this project I did use acrylic paint and a gloss paint along the edge to give it a pop look.

Peace, Hope, and Kindness Panel                                                                        

When deciding what to create for this panel, I know I wanted to convey a peaceful and uplifting message. The background of the heart is red to represent love (I also completed this the day before Valentine’s Day, so it felt especially appropriate). The dove and the peace sign are  somewhat obvious symbols of peace, but they are very clear in what they convey. There were so many tears shed which brought about this project that I wanted this panel to represent hope and the joy that one can return to even in grief.

For John Heggie

I learned that John Heggie had been considered an “angelic spirit” who worked two jobs and had a non-profit organization called “Heggie’s Hoops and Dreams,” so I painted him with angel wings. I included the logo for his organization – a basketball with an H on it in the panel. He loved basketball, the Eagles, and the 76ers. When I spoke to his mother, she said that he was a brother, a son, an uncle and a protector. She also told me, “He was simply the best person I ever knew.” I hope that my panel honors his memory and keeps it alive.

For Raphael Vasquez

I was very honored to create this panel for Raphael Vasquez because his daughter Rachel is also an artist, and she said that she always created projects for other people, but never for herself. I included the Fleur de Lis symbol for New Orleans because Mr. Vasquez lived there for some time, and his time there was very important to him. Rachael also said that he had been a Merchant Marine, so I included the logo for the Merchant Marines. He loved old Salsa music, so I included the image of a couple dancing and instruments. He loved going to Wildwood Beach, NJ  in the Summer, so I painted an image of Wildwood’s boardwalk. Rachel mentioned that she felt her father was looking out for her, and when asked for a statement, she said, “Keep watching over us.”


In this artwork, titled “Wholehearted,” I used acrylic paint, Sharpie marker, and cloth material as my canvas. This painting represents the courage, thoughtfulness, and inspiration that Theodore Crawford III demonstrated.

His mother described him as a very nice young man who was inspiring and knew that he had siblings who looked up to him. With this understanding, Theodore carried himself as if he were a leader, and as if his every move was being watched.

The vibrant red and orange colors in the center of the heart represent the marvelous essence of Theodore’s spirit. The silhouette on the right represents Theodore’s mother and siblings, while the piano keys are a symbol of John Legends’s song, “Ordinary People,” a beautiful song that captures a distinct memory and representation of Theodore’s love for his mother.

This project helps give a new meaning of art, story and emotion it can show. After hearing the story of Alan Womack Jr., I started drawing out my idea and adding small details in the art to give a message. I started with primary colors to bring out my design and, in the center, a human head with wings which means strength and growth.

The media I work in are sketching, drawing, painting, and photography–whatever comes to mind, or what I feel that comes from my mind or has a powerful meaning behind it. I always carry my sketchbook because there is always an idea that comes to mind.

I think what inspires me most for my artwork is to catch the viewer’s attention or, as I do with my poetry or spoken word, I want to get the raw reaction to it. If someone stops and views my work, then I have succeeded at getting their attention. For my influences, Kara Walker or Faith Ringgold and lastly Carrie Mae Weems come to mind.

Looking at this particular assignment–the gun violence heart–I did my assignment on my little brother who was shot in 2018 on his way to school. I channeled how he felt and how I felt hearing the news in each little small detail on the painting, which tells a part of the story and the anger I still hold. I think I just unleashed the feelings I’ve bottled up for a very long time and let it all out on the painting. Ultimately, I’m inspired by my surroundings, such as our beautiful campus or the roads heading back home–the trees or the open fields that we can see.

For my art, what inspires me is the world around me; there are so many
inspirations in everyday life at your disposal. Even within ourselves, we can use our
emotions to portray our tones in the painting or drawings on a canvas to identify what we’re trying to say through art. Using my creativity and imagination in my work, letting my mind take control, and working with whatever comes from it—as well as looking at others’ art and taking some concepts to make my own.

A brief description of the eyes in the painting: so many people were watching as my brother crawled to get away (the mouth is the anger I still feel because I couldn’t protect my little brother from danger or prevent him from going down that path). The eyes represent everyone watching and not doing anything to help my brother. They watched him crawl into the street like a wounded dog and did nothing. For a while, the incident made me question my faith in God. What lesson was it supposed to teach me? Who did it help? How did it make anyone stronger? I’m happy my brother is still alive he’s our puzzle piece, and I couldn’t imagine my family without him.

For the African symbol, I choose the symbol “ Adinkra” as it represents God’s presence and protection. It took a while for me to accept God again, but, for a part, my faith is restored or together in some way.


When I first was introduced to the assignment, I wanted to do the 8-page paper instead because I felt like mentally, I wasn’t prepared to face another family’s trauma when I was healing with my own. When it was time to choose, out of all the victims’ pictures laid out I chose Jada’s picture because in a weird uncanny way I felt like she not only looked at me but I felt like the picture was staring back at me. At that moment I knew that this project would weigh heavy on me. I was so anxious to meet the parents when the day came. I was snot nose-crying when I met Ms. Womac. The moment we shared is a highlight of one of my college experiences. Jada Hellams was only 21 years old. She was killed on July 27th in 2021. She shared that Jada wanted to be a Cardiologist , She was the jokester of the family , she was very kindhearted , Her favorite Color was Purple, she was on the basketball team at her college Central Penn. Overall she was a very sweet and kindhearted person. Listening to Ms. Womac describe how Jada was able to light up any room she walked in was touching. Ms. Womac’s favorite memory with Jada was riding in the car and listening to “Can we Talk “by Tevin Campbell. I chose to paint this because me and my mom always take long car rides and last December my mom got Carbon monoxide poisoning and got really sick in the hospital. Luckily, she is okay now but I never dealt with the internal self-blaming that I wasn’t there for her that much because of school. When I painted I was able to self-reflect on my own relationship with my mom. That was most of my inspiration throughout the project.

In my painting I captured a hand turning on the song “Can we Talk “by Tevin Campball. In the Background the car is riding across a beautiful orange, purple, red sunset. The deeper meaning behind the sunset was that Ms .Womac and her daughter were driving and they were at the beginning of the road because I hope the sun never sets on them again. Ms. Womac unfortunately, didn’t get back to me regarding the quote but I know she loves her daughter early , I know it would’ve been something beautiful. – I’m grateful that I was able to impact a family’s heart with my work. This was an amazing experience.


Hasir Townsend was born and raised in Philadelphia; sadly,  he died due to gun violence, leaving his mother Lenora Townsend and his younger sister and brother.

During this project, the process was very sad. Hasir lost his life at the age of 16. The piece was even harder to do because I lost my brother at 19 due to gun violence. Hasir and my brother Malik both shared some of the same interests, which is also what motivated me during this tragic but wholesome journey of trying to feel the mother & victim to be able to create a mural.  To know we are living in a treacherous society because of gun violence, I felt it would be most appreciated by those who had to suffer because of a tragic loss such as Hasir’s.

Most of the moral was painted with acrylic and medium to smooth the painting, yet I’m not a painter but I have a vision for creativity, so I gave it a shot.

I believe art is about telling your own or someone else’s story, and I believe that is what I did with this piece. We were given a task to illustrate a drawing in honor of someone taken too early from this earth—sadly, by gun violence. Brandon Dixon is who I was assigned. His mom mentioned he was their family’s lucky charm, which prompted me to put one in the drawing. She also mentioned that his daughter and family meant the most to him, so I thought there was no way better to honor that then to recreate a photograph of him, his daughter, and his mom.

She mentioned how talented he was in basketball, which is why I drew one. I added a medal to symbolize all the awards he earned over the years playing all different types of sports. I also included the Adinkra symbol for “peace and prayer”. He was a follower of the Islamic religion, and a large portion of that religion contains prayer; I wish peace on his mom and anyone else still grieving over this horrific loss.

Victim: Zykeem Thomas, Age 27

I created this piece in order to illustrate the story of a young man with a beautiful soul who spent his life being a protector of his family and friends–even if it meant sacrificing his own peace of mind. Zykeem’s death was truly a tragedy to everyone around him because he was always a kind soul to everyone he interacted with.

My process with this creation took longer than I expected because I also worked on building a connection between his mother and I in order to understand Zykeem’s story better; I also started to develop different emotions, good and bad, that helped me bring my vision to life. Growing up in Philadelphia is an experience that would leave anybody with mental scars, but that is also what fuels me to create art. I usually work with marker and acrylic paint when creating, but I would love to mostly work with oil paint in the future. My main focus will always be to use my art to give the voiceless a way to tell their stories without being judged.

Samir Fortune
If I was told when I was younger that one day, in the future, as a young man, I would be having to create a memorial piece for one of my friends who I always had a deep sense of respect and love for, I would not have believed it. Samir always was a very unique person even from a young age; people were just always drawn to him, not only because of his sense of humor, but also because he was an extremely genuine soul. His friends and family meant more than the world to him.

When Samir started making music under the name,” TrapStreet Saddi.” It attracted not only the attention of people in Philadelphia, but other musicians like PNB Rock and Lil Uzi Vert.

I struggled with creating this piece because I never truly have coped with the passing of my childhood friend. I used many acrylic colors and symbols that stand for
strength, unity, and love in my piece.I spoke with his mother and spent time with her in order to get help with telling his story on canvas, and she gave everything I needed plus more. The thing that will always help to keep creating is that I know I can help somebody else’s day go better.

The art I created came in the form of acrylic painting. The best word that can be used to describe my final product would be “masterpiece.”

The depth of my painting not only has many details with a backstory, but it depicts the life once lived by two phenomenal beings. My influence came from a very brave lady named Ms. Michelle. She was the one blessed enough to have been given the name “mom” because of those phenomenal beings. She allowed me to step into the life of her very own children even though at times it hurt her to relive the past.

Each image portrays what made each child unique. I used different colors to capture depth and essence in relation to the beautiful things about each one of them. The roses, being the mother’s favorite flower, encompasses the heart and depicts a sense of security for her children. I used her favorite colors for them as well. I dedicated one half of the heart to each child lost and the things they enjoyed most in this lifetime. The different shades of blue represent the sadness in our hearts as a result of a nation plagued with gun violence. The first thing I did was break my heart down the middle to symbolize the brokenness after losing a loved one. What makes it different is the fact that the heart ends as a zipper. I made it this way because, while the feeling of brokenness never fully heals, the heart does have moments where it feels whole again.

The brown background is closely related to the skin color of Michelle’s kids. At the bottom I placed two Odo nnyew fie kwan African symbols. They mean “Love does not lose its way home.” In other words, love always ends up where it is supposed to be. Knowing that I could find healing for myself AND help someone in the process is what inspired me the most!

The person who I had the opportunity to honor with my art was named Stephen Hoston 3rd. He was murdered March 15th ,2022 due to gun violence in the Philadelphia area. In meeting Stephen’s mother and hearing her story, I hurt for her. She lost her only son, her protector and best friend in one fatal moment. Stephen had recently moved back home after living in Texas for five years. His mother was so excited to have her son back–only for him to be brutally murdered three months after his return to his hometown of Philadelphia. As she told me her story, I felt chills run down my spine. I could see the pain in her eyes and hear the sorrow in her words. I couldn’t imagine being in her situation. I wondered how she was able to stand before me and tell me about the darkest day of her life only two months after her son was taken. I envied her for her strength and her ability to be vulnerable and continue to share their story and keep her son’s name alive. Her story impacted me a great deal. She not only taught me to cherish the ones around me, but she also reminded me not to take any moment for granted and to live every day as if it was my last.

In my project, I incorporated the city skyline of Philadelphia. I drew the families that are affected by gun violence. The yelling man represents the pain and violence that is poured throughout the city. I used green in the background of my painting to symbolize growth. I want my audience to know that they’re not stuck in one situation, and that even if they were once the problem in the city there is always room for growth and change, and to remember that change starts with yourself first.

I appreciated this assignment and the reality check it provided me. This assignment allowed me to display my creativity and to honor a man who was taken before his time.

My name is Lakhisha Riley, and I am a senior at Cheyney University majoring in graphic design. My primary medium of choice is usually digital, art but for this piece titled Bird in Flight I used acrylic paint.

The piece is of a robin in flight in a purple sky. To make this piece, I wanted to bring together things I learned about the person I was making it for in order to make it truly unique. The things that stuck out to me were her love for the color purple and her dream of being a veterinarian. Since her name was Robin, drawing a bird seemed like the fitting animal of choice. The piece depicts a robin flying upwards in a purple sky (which  I imagine to be one of the numerous shades that paint the sky before the sun has fully risen) and the sun is shining with rays reaching to the edges of the work. My intention was to portray resilience and power.

The Adinkra symbol I chose to complement this work was Akoma; it takes the shape of a heart and represents patience and goodwill.

Victim: Nashray Crisden 9/13/2020 Row 10

“The poetic sensibility was too good for this world; it was best to burn brightly and to die young like a shooting star (George Howe Colt)” Nashray Crisden was what every man wanted to be. His heart pure gold, and he puts others before himself. Unfortunately, on September 13,2020 at only nineteen years old the world lost a beautiful soul. While making this painting, I wanted to show his bright kind personality he had. I wanted to capture him how his mom saw him, a young black king who saw good in everyone, who loved people with all his heart. A boy who would give anything up for some Niffty Fifty’s. I wanted the viewers to see a young innocent boy who life was taken to soon. A boy who had the world right in front of him, someone who had suck a warm kind heart to leave such a strong impact in the world.

Therapy is how I describe my art. Not because of the dull pencils I use or the lack of color most of my sketches have, but because art is what keeps me sane. It keeps me from panicking, having a breakdown, triggering myself to do what is not in my best interest.

I always start with a flower, a basic thing, but it is the first thing I learned to draw and be proud of. Every sketch starts with a flower because that is what I imagine later: blooming. The flower looking pretty and healthy throughout is my meaning of being free and happy. The bouquets, roses, the dozen stretches and doodling’s I make, it keeps me living. It keeps me happy for a better future. I later went on to went on to draw a huge tree as a representation of Donte’s “Kind heart and soul,” which his mother constantly talked about during our phone call. I used planet colors to signify the person that he was: orange, meaning joy; blue, meaning intellectual and imaginative; purple, meaning spiritual power. When choosing theses colors, I thought of everything his mother poured out to me: “Donte was a beautiful soul” she cried, “He was a wonderful father and son, He would have done anything for his children.” In the middle of the tree, I wrote “Inna lillahiwa Inna ilayhi rajioon (ِ وَ إِنَّا إِلَيْه ِ رَ اجِ عُون ه َّ ِ لِلَ إِنَّا)” Meaning “Verily we belong to Allah, and verily to Him, we will have to return.” I wanted Donte to rest peacefully, and his mother informed me that he was a Muslim.

This artwork is my way of paying my respects to him.

Artist: Dr. Marietta Dantonio-Madsen

Victim: Erica Elyse Hillyard 6/25/2019

Erica Hillyard, at age 27, was murdered June 25, 2019. Her story was shared with me by her loving mother, Stephanie Johnson. Ericas favorite color was red, and she was a kind hearted person who loved everyone. Erica was an actress, who sang, danced, and acted, and had a dream of going to Hollywood one day. She admired the characters of Disney, and she sang in the choir, was a successful athlete who ran track for her church team. Every year she and her mother would honor her aunt who had breast cancer, giving hope to all. Erica gave birth to two beautiful sons. Her mothers favorite memory of Erica is when Erica gave birth to her first-born son and she took a photo of her mother holding him. I used this image to create the skyline and silhouette of two infants. As the oldest child in her family, she took on the roll of the boss and helped her mother in every way. Erica’s mothers quote says it so clearly “I really miss you; I need your help in so many ways.”

Victim:Madinah- Luisa Fisher 9/22/2020

At the young age of 28 years old, Madinah-Luisa Fisher’s life was cut short by gun violence. Her sister, Taneal Carter shared that Madinah always cared for others. Her passion to help others encompassed her dreams of becoming a mortician to care for peoples departed loved ones. Symbols of being in the medical field and a mortician are represented. A favorite memory of Madinah was when she over came stage fright and sang at a karaoke event. Symbolic image of a person singing highlights this event. Her spiritual beliefs were wiccan and she owned a black cat named “Kitty.” Her favorite color was black. I painted symmetrical images of two black cats to compose a balanced design in the painting. A beautiful life cut short but always remembered. The message from her sister to Madinah is “I miss you. I love you. I wish we had more time.”

Victim: Ojanae Thompson 9/16/2021

Ojanae Thompson was born January 8 and died August 16, 2021 at the age of 19 years old. Her devoted mother is Tiffaney Flynn, who described her daughter as a loving, kind, and responsible young lady who had plans to become a nurse. Due to COVID 19 she never had a graduation ceremony and looked forward to graduating from a university with a degree in nursing. Her favorite color was purple hence, I painted purple lotus flowers showing her path to enlightenment. She was a cheerleader since 5th grade which shows her support of others success. She was like a second mother to her siblings “the Big sister”. Tiffaney’s message to Ojanae is ‘I love you”. It was an honor for me to paint symbolism to represent the beautiful Person, Ojanae Thompson through the eyes of her mother.

Victim: Tamara Johnson 4/12/09

On April 12th, 2009, Tamara Johnson ‘s life ended by gun violence. I had the honor to speak with Tamara’s mother, Terrez McCleary, who shared beautiful memories of her daughter. Tamara’s favorite color was tan hues and she loved rap music. Tamara’s greatest love and focus was for her daughter. Terrez so clearly stated that Tamara’s heart is with her daughter. Tamara was a model with all the beauty that comes with that role. “She lit up a room with her smile when she entered.” When in college, she wanted to become a nurse and to pursue a position in a neo-natal medical department. Her smile brought a closeness for her mother, for which her mother misses. A message left for Tamara from her mother is “How I miss you, I would love to have you back” Love mom. The depth of love from Terrez for Tamara was evident when she described a beautiful memory of Tamara when she was young. Tamara always wanted her shoe laces and her bows to be tied evenly and perfectly. A desire for beautiful accessories even as a baby. May she be remembered always.

Victim: James Walke III
To listen to a mother, describe her beautiful son’s life after his tragic untimely death filled my heart with such compassion. Yullio Robbins has a strength and resilience that few possess. My heart aches for all of the mothers and fathers who are suffering from gun violence family loss. Yullio is a tremendous woman who openly honors her beloved son James. Keeping his memory alive through my painting hopefully teaches others children. James loved the eagles and basketball and played at the Wister community center and the PAL recreational center. He loved his mother’s fried chicken, and was famous for making pancakes for his family. His role model was his uncle Chico who retired from the Army after 50 years of service. James’s dream was to own a construction company, to be a man of integrity and who would be respected. He wanted to become the best person he could be. He was very affectionate and told his mother he loved her every day. His remarkable spirit and soul are evident in his smile which glows with a sparkle in his eyes. Yullio Robbins loving message to her son is ‘I love you and miss you tremendously and only God knows my heart”. It was my honor to commemorate James Walke III.



Victim: William Bethel 4/1/2018

The heart project is a piece of unity and a symbolism of what the city of brotherly love ironically lacks when it comes to the youth of the communities in Philadelphia. Being born and raised in Philadelphia I witnessed many tragedies. We created each piece with the love and strength of the city of Philadelphia. The project took a whole semester to complete. Dr. Madsen was there supporting each artist’s piece, which was comforting. The heart canvas is on a fabric cloth that is personalized for each young life. I am honored to be doing this project concerning William and his family because I came across William in this lifetime in Highschool. It is crazy because I remember when the whole incident happened and how it affected my peers and those around me at the time. Being a senior in college and doing this project and seeing his face on the board for young victims that lost their lives, I could not help but think that he would have been a senior college just like me. I was instantly filled with all the emotions from 2018. I felt like I needed to do this not only for him but for all my peers that were affected and touched by his passing and the impact on the lives he had.

I made my work by using the conversation I had with his mother during our interview. I took all the things that made him unique such as boxing, football, his unique heart and all the things that was inspired by in his life and placed them into the heart. Each object reflected who he was and what he loved. His mother told me that he raised him in love so, it was perfect that the project was made with a heart. The placement of each object is placed in a unique way of what filled up his heart.

What inspires me to make art is my love for creativity and freedom. The thought of creating whatever motivates me or what is in my heart is a sense of healing and therapy. Art is what saved me from my sorrows, art is what keeps me sane in the insanities of Philadelphia. Without Art, I do not see how I could have grown into the woman I am today.

I am an artist from Philly. I have been creating art as a hobby for over 10 years. The reason behind joining this amazing Healing Arts volunteer opportunity was to not only bring a smile to a wounded mother’s face, but also to shine an even brighter light on the ongoing issue in our city regarding gun violence. It bothers me that gun usage has become so common and is taking over the city that dubs itself “The city of brotherly love.” During this awesome opportunity to work alongside CU’s talented Healing Arts students, I was able to meet one of the most brave women I have ever encountered: Ms. Fatima. She lost her son Shaqur Demby in December of 2021, just 14 days after his 26th birthday. I cannot imagine her pain as a mother losing one of her babies–and in such a hostile and violent way. Her story touched me in ways that the news began to desensitize me to. Ms. Fatima reminded me that stolen voices should never go forgotten after the story is covered, nor should injustices go unaccounted for as time passes.

My artwork is a homage to her son Shaqur and a token of recognition of her devotion to the ongoing legacy of her late son. He is no longer here, but his legacy lives on through her memorable stories. I captured some of her finest memories of Mr. Shaqur in my piece, such as his favorite colors blue and green. His love for music and his favorite performers 50 Cent and the group Migos are highlighted. Mr. Demby was a huge fan of music and I wanted to emphasize that. His mother remembered the huge pair of headphones he wore daily as he recited his favorite songs everywhere he went. Ms. Fatima noted Shaqur’s overprotectiveness of her and how he was the glue to her family, so that is a main staple in my piece. She sent me her words of remembrance, and I placed them in the glue spill above the figure wearing a pair of headphones. Within the set of headphones is another highlight of Mr. Shaqur’s life: his fandom for the Chicago Bears. As a Philly native, I added some components of that aspect as well, with an image of the city and the iconic Phillies ‘P’ on the chest of the figure. Mr. Demby was a part of Philly’s urban youth culture, so I wanted to add that Philly feel to my piece, which is why I used a graffiti style of lettering for his name. Overall, I wanted to capture all of the fondest memories that I could of Mr. Shaqur Demby, all the while, simultaneously conveying the pain that the senseless act of violence resulting in his demise has caused his family, and moreover, the woman who loved him most, his mother. I hope that my piece ‘offering’ brings some form of joy in knowing that his legacy will never be forgotten, even by a complete stranger who will, from this day forward, always remember him.

My art piece is a painting of the late Lance Corporal Robert Wood III, who lost his life due to gun violence. After sketching many different drafts, I dedicated a portrait of him in front of the American flag not only in remembrance of his life but as well as his service. The reason why I chose this form of art is due to the fact that there is a need to bring awareness to the issue of gun violence in America. It was very disheartening to hear that the corporal had to lose his life in the place that he fought and put his life on the line for. It is such an unsettling feeling to have because what is the point of fighting for a land that is not safe. Therefore, using different variations of acrylic paints to my best ability, I painted an American flag with the Marine symbol in the corner to show remembrance for his service. Then, in place of the original fifty stars on the flag I placed an imperfect amount of stars to represent that America still has many imperfections that we still need to fix. My overall reflection of this project varied throughout the process. In the beginning, I felt as though I would be constantly triggered by this topic due to the fact that I personally have seen how gun violence victims’ families are affected by these matters first hand. However, Dr. Madsen made this project a healing journey, and it eventually became the highlight of my week because painting was stress-free for me.

I am very grateful for this healing art project.

For the gun violence project, I was actually nervous to meet the parents–I knew we had to have to meet with a family. After talking with the family, we had to sit down and create a memorial for the victim into a heart-shaped canvas. After the whole class was done, they pieced it together and it will then be sewn.

The person I got named was Justin Smith. I actually knew of Justin. Justin was gunned down walking from the bus stop with his best friend Tyheim. I actually went to school and was really good friends with Tyheim. I remember this story rocking my world this past summer. To find out that I would be doing a memorial for someone I knew of was important to me.

What I ended coming up with to honor the memory of Justin was looking into the scenery. The scenery included a street sign that says “West Oak Lane,” where Justin was from. The other sign says “Wildcats,” which was a team Justin played for when he was younger. On one side of the street sign is a city block because he was from Philadelphia, and on the other side is a football stadium painted with the colors of his favorite professional team: the Philadelphia Eagles. Then I incorporated a lot of different blues into the piece because his favorite color was blue. Even the silhouette of the man has highlights of blue to symbolize Justin.

Do Something!
Acrylic & embroidery on canvas

“Do Something!” is my plea to lawmakers, elected officials who have the power to make changes that could have a meaningful effect on how prevalent gun violence is in the United States to do something, anything. The painting and embroidery in this piece is deliberately rough, a reflection of my own visceral reactions whenever I hear about another person whose life ended at the barrel of a gun. There is little argument that gun violence is an epidemic that has run rampant in this country for far too long, despite countless protests, curbside memorials, and all of the funerals for those people who have had their lives taken far too soon. In the city of Philadelphia alone, there have been 155 non-fatal and 40 fatal shooting victims in 2023 so far; fifty-four of those incidents were homicides (City of Philadelphia Office of the Controller, Mapping Philadelphia’s Gun Crisis). According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been over 5200 gun violence deaths in the United States between January 1 and February 14, 2023. I, like many others, feel numb, angry, and helpless as we read and/or listen to reports of yet another incident of gun violence. So, what can we do about it?

“Where Dreams Come True”

Charles Andre Johnson: January 19, 2011

This scene captures an adult Charles Johnson looking at the Disney castle as it releases fireworks. Colored fairy dust flows from the castle and envelops his mother’s message to him: “I love you more than life.” This scene is based on his mother’s favorite memory of him when he was younger. Acrylic paint was used on a canvas cloth to create this art piece. The aim was to create a scene not of mourning but of the celebration of life and the memories left behind. The Adinkra symbol Odo nnyew fie kwan rests at the top of the heart, its meaning being, “Love never loses its way home.”

My name is Nicholas Steptoe jr. I am a senior at Cheyney University who is majoring in graphic design. I am primarily a sketch artist and a digital artist; for this piece, titled Just One More Day, I used acrylic paint on a fabric canvas.

My piece Just One More Day honors the memory of one Dominique Olgesby, a young college student like myself whose life was tragically cut short in 2018–just a few months before she was to graduate from Penn State. After speaking to Dominique’s mother, inspiration began to pour in regarding how I could best personalize the work. My goal with this piece was to bring together Dominique and her father, who had also been a victim in the incident that took her life. I know that green was her favorite color, so I wanted to integrate that into the background as much as possible. Dominique was a person of many talents, so I included as many as I could; for example, her love of reading and singing and her love of education. I know Dominique loved her family and idolized her parents, so I hope that this work will honor her and her family.

The Adinkra symbol I chose represents knowledge. I feel like this best represents Dominique as she had always sought higher education and had a real appreciation for learning.

The “Dancer,” was created in the fall of 2022 and inspired by Ms. Amber Micheal, who sadly passed away on September 5, 2016, at the tender age of twenty-six.

For this inspirational artwork, I use acrylics as my main medium with a permanent marker to outline and add detail to my art. The major justification for why I desired to do this artwork piece was to celebrate Amber’s life. Listening to Miss Tonya, Amber’s mother, express her character and life story convinced me that I needed to memorialize her. My process for painting was quite simple. I knew what elements I wanted to implement, and I knew how I wanted to implement them as well. So I started sketching, keeping in mind where I wanted everything to go and ensuring my composition was up to my standard. After completing my sketch, I transferred it over onto my sheet of canvas. As I began painting on my canvas, I made sure to listen to Erykah Badu as I did so since Erykah Badu is Amber’s favorite artist; I wanted her sound to influence my style. After finishing my painting, I used a permanent marker to add more detail. A few aspects that inspired me were the following:

  • Amber’s dancing background
  • The color red
  • Erykah Badu
  • Womanhood
  • Amber’s relationship with her mother

These characteristics stood out to me since these aspects seemed to be the most important things to Amber or what she was known for (with confirmation from Miss Tonya). Therefore, I ensured these elements stood out the most in my piece. To help illuminate Amber’s dancing background, I put her in a pose inspired by Miss Tonya’s favorite picture of her. As Amber’s favorite color was red, I only painted her in different shades and hues of this color. To show Amber’s connection with Erykah Badu, I decided to take a more African-inspired look with my style since Erykah Badu’s music primarily focuses on a neo-soul, Afrocentric sound. I used the symbolism of a group of pink-colored women holding hands, forming a line, and the Adinkra symbol Daufe to show womanhood. The meaning of this symbol is femininity, love, and care; I felt those described Amber perfectly. Finally, I used purple and composition to signify Amber’s close relationship with her mother. Miss Tonya told me her favorite color was purple, so I painted her a reddish purple to show her relationship with Amber. I also decided within my composition to place her in the middle behind Amber to simulate a “watching over you” sort of feeling.

Victim: Aamed Glover, 6/13/2021

For this art piece I was given the opportunity to meet with the family of Aamed Glover. After hearing the tragic story, I decided to include the positive aspects of his life and what was shared with me. When choosing the colors, I went with bright yellows and greens and in a way used a watercolor technique to blend them together. The medium for this work of art was acrylic paint on canvass. The intention was to be able to stitch every work of art and every story together. In the painting you can see my depiction of Aamed holding a child. When it was brought to my attention that he was a father of five that stood out to me. I feel as though that was one of the most important things about him and that should be the center part of the artwork. I included basketball as well as his age in the background. A small detail I included was Aamed holding hands while on of his children but also of them to show his connection. For the background I mixed paint to find a shade of brown that I saw fitting. Each art piece has a different shade of brown to represent the many lives and who gun violence affects.

Victim: Domonic Billa, 3/9/2021                                                  

 For this art piece I was given the opportunity to meet with the family of Domonic Billa Upon our first meeting the emotions were very intense. We decided to go a different route. The family of Domonic texted in a group chat answering all the questions that were given about his favorite colors and hobbies and food. When I began painting, I used a water color method to blend different shades of red his favorite color. I then painted a cross as the conscious focus to emphasize God. I went on the paint him as a younger version of himself and him as a young adult. At the center I then painted him and his mother so that together they can be surrounded by God. While speaking with his mother I learned that she is a very strong person and does a lot to honor her son Domonic.  Then with different shaded of yellows and oranges I decorated the background of the heart. Finally, when choosing the shade of brown, I mixed colors until I made a good shade still including red his favorite color.



Designed by Professor Joel T. Keener

Painted by Professor Joel T. Keener and Dr. Marietta Dantonio-Madsen

The Tree of Life has been depicted by many cultures for thousands of years. The theme seems to symbolize human awareness, knowledge, wisdom, good and evil.

There are four Tree of Life paintings in this mural. One represents Spring, the birth of new life budding with the joy of unlimited possibilities. One represents Summer, living life with energy full of growth, and exciting new beginnings.  The third one represents Autumn, when life begins to wain and we change, the leaves begin to drop yet the colors are vibrant and inviting. The final and fourth one represents Winter, the time of resting, the time of death preparing for a renewed journey.

This healing arts project depicts many beautiful people whose life ended at various stages of their life cycle. Gun-violence by those unaware created these untimely deaths. What remains is the power of love from each mother and family who continue the legacy of their beloved children.

Within the original design a heart was discovered. We felt this heart depicts the power of love in every aspect of our human life journey and beyond; the power of love which remains.

My Heart that I painted within these few weeks represents the gun violence in the city of Philadelphia. My heart is broken into pieces saying “Stop The Violence”. I thought of this concept because Philadelphia is known as The City of Brotherly Love. However, there hasn’t been much brotherly love within the last 20 plus years. I really enjoyed doing this piece because also on the heart are hashtags that we Philadelphians use when we pray for help in the city or want the violence to end. These Hashtags are “#Pray4Philly” and “#215”. Overall, I really enjoyed painting this and hopefully someone likes it and wants to take it home and hang it up somewhere.

Victim: Marcus Yates, 1988

The medium of my painting is acrylic paint on a sheet of canvas. Outside of my own personal obligation to contribute to the Healing Arts Project, I made this artwork in hopes of commemorating Marcus Yates and providing healing, through my artwork, to Ms. Yates-Whittington (Marcus’s mother) and to her family. I find that children are gifts to and from mothers, so it is only right that my work is a gift, one of of healing, as well.

My painting process is quite particular. For one, there is an evident combination of traditional painting styles and graphic illustration. Furthermore, I utilized a mixture of techniques, such as gradients, solid coloring, cell shading, and more. Also, the Adinkra symbol I incorporated in my painting was the “Power of Love” symbol. Regarding my inspiration to make art, I have been surrounded by artistically-inclined individuals since birth; however, I suppose the desire to pursue art has been cultivated by myself. Lastly, the statement I received from Marcus’ mother was “You will not die in vain.”

I want to start by using a couple of words to describe this piece of work: loving, creative, and unity.

This piece was painted with acrylic paint; I used a medium to smooth the paint out on the canvas. I used colors that correlate with the city of Philadelphia. This “stop the gun violence” project opened my eyes to the predicament that’s going on in the city. In this piece I tried to use the colors that represent my city: the red and pink stands for the love symbol. I put white doves to try and preach that we need peace in our city. We are losing too many loved ones to our own race. Gun violence is a predicament that the whole world is going through, but roughly the African American community is suffering the most. We have changed that, and I tried to make people feel that through this piece. I was inspired by Dr. Madsen to do this project. She encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and discover this new passion I have for art. Also, I’m a young black man who grew up in Philadelphia. Everything that’s going on in my city is a burden on my black community. There are too many families mourning over losses of loved ones, and it has to stop. I put the Adinkra unity sign to preach that we need to come together as a whole and stop the violence in our society.

My creation is a 3d mixed media depiction of the life and soul of Dinari Camp. In my mixed media creation, I used acrylic paint, colored pencils, permanent marker,
paper, aluminum foil with decoupaged Dinari ‘s photo, musical grace notes, Phila. Eagles’ logo. The beginning of every painting process, started with silence and
giving honor to Dinari. In my heart creation I attempted to capture the “Flow of Dinari’s Spirit: Grace Notes” The flow of the musical grace notes was depicted in
3D decoupage. Dinari was supposed to release an album. The heart with a background of his skin color – caramel also depicted his love for family, Phila
eagles and food. I included direct quotes from his mother to show his love for his mother. “Age 9 mo. first words “Mommy I Love You” His mother’s latest
expression “Until we meet again” It is my hope that this project can bring a healing and loving energy to all that view it.

As an artist born and raised in Philadelphia PA, I feel a moral responsibility to use my talent to address vital social issues. One issue that I feel predominantly passionate about is the problem of gun violence in our society. Through my art, I aim to raise awareness about the destructive impact of gun violence in our community. My objective is to motivate people to think intensely about this issue and to take action to design a safer and more peaceful world for all of us.

My art is not just about the politics surrounding gun violence. It’s about the human lives that are lost and the families that are endlessly changed by these misfortunes. I hope that my art can inspire people to speak out against gun violence, to advocate for change, and to work together to create a world where everyone can feel safe and protected.

The medium that I worked on during this project: I used acrylic paint along with painting markers to highlight the effect of my drawing so they could stand out.

Why I did this project: to me this painting is very inspiring. It helps me understand both sides–being an outsider looking in and an insider looking out. I want to bring peace to the loved ones’ hearts to show them that the person they love will always live in their hearts no matter how far they go. I placed the victim’s favorite things or things they did on a daily basis in the artwork.

My unique process that I use to make my painting was something of a type of abstract art. I used a bunch of ideas that I got from the victim’s friends, her mom, and social media, and I put it all together. I also used where she’s from for a big part of my project.

What inspires me to do art really is the youth and also for my mentality: I’m a very vibrant person with a lot of energy, and I like putting it in a story through art. Even though I’m explaining someone else’s message through my art, the way I draw it expresses my emotions as well.

When I did this painting, it made me feel loving and caring that I could make art for someone else’s loved ones and knowing that I’ll be putting a smile on a face that needs it makes me feel good as a person. When doing my piece, it kept me calm. Losing my father from gun violence, this hits home for me