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Who is John Donaldson? Black history in a mural...

Updated: Apr 3

John Donaldson rides his horse-drawn cart with crates of oranges in the back.
John Donaldson rides his horse-drawn cart

In October 2023, I was nominated to the SHINE 9 Mural Festival. Participating in the event was on my "artist bucket list," so to learn I would be creating next to some art giants that I've long followed and respected was mind-blowing. I knew I had to bring my best while remaining true to who I was as an artist.

Once I learned that my site would be the PSTA ticket booth within the historical WiIlliams Park in St. Petersburg, FL, I knew I had a challenge on my hands. When conceiving the idea for the building, I had to consider four walls to complete within a week. Would I wrap the building in one continuous design? Or would I chose the risky and ambitious task of four different designs for each side? If there's anything I've learned in my art career, there are no shortcuts to fulfilling your dreams – so four unique walls it was!

In the past couple of years, I began telling stories of cultures not recognized in the school system. Through my work, I capture the imagination of the viewer not only through the vibrant colors, but storytelling. And last year, I tapped into African stories, patterns and fabrics to inspire my work. This led to my desire to tell the story of someone in the Black community in historical St. Pete, while incorporating the African patterns I had been working with. Who better than the first, Black settler to the area, John Donaldson.

Since its completion, this mural has brought a lot of attention to the story of Mr. Donaldson. From local citizens to local businesses, the consensus is that the vibrant colors attract viewers and make them ask "who is John Donaldson?"

While visiting St. Pete, please be sure to stop by the mural and scan the placard to learn more.

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