Meet the artist who is Painting a new picture for LYnchburg
By Robin Sutton Anders
If Christina Davis gets a call from a new number, it often goes a little something like this:
“So, I’ve got this wall. Want to paint on it?”
Over the last five years, the calls have been coming more frequently. Small business owners are growing and expanding their businesses, and they often have a vision for a message they want to communicate. Christina’s art is displayed on several business walls in downtown Lynchburg and you can find several of her works inside businesses as well like the Central Virginia YMCA, the YWCA of Lynchburg, and RS Payne Middle School.
On top of all that, there’s an increased appetite from the community for public art. “I’ve seen our community change; people are more open-minded to art and diversified art,” Davis says. “My work is about people, and people are the driving force behind my work.”
In the summer of 2020, Davis painted “Make Waves” on the sheet metal wall of the Craft Crucible building in midtown. For Davis, the mural was “a support piece as a shout-out to successful Black women who are living here and trying new things, making waves in town and doing a lot to inspire art and growth and change.”
Women from across the country saw it and were moved. Many of them had never set foot in Lynchburg. People Magazine covered it; a writer from Mississippi wanted to put the mural on her book cover.
“When you see a large, gorgeous woman on the side of a building who is Black and colorful and lives here, it’s almost like unboxing,” she says. “It’s a funny thing living in a town called Lynchburg. But that name does not describe anyone here. And that mural sent people a message that they’ve got to come here and get to know us. We’re one of the best-kept secrets in Virginia.”
Davis doesn’t expect every piece of the art she creates to speak to everybody—“as long as it speaks to you, that’s what it’s really there for”—but Make Waves had a broad relatability she believes encouraged people to rethink their idea of Lynchburg. The meaning they ascribed went beyond what Davis imagined, and others’ interpretations allowed her art to evolve.
That’s the beauty of art, she believes: “silent, but yet very loud, and it can say a lot of ideas all at once.”
Davis sees discovering mural artwork a bit like playing a game. “It’s interactive, you’re searching for a hidden gem on your way to somewhere else,” she says. “I love getting social media pings that somebody is talking about it, or somebody is taking a selfie in front of my work.”
At Lynchburg’s historic Academy Center for Fine Arts, Davis teaches acrylics and gouache in the same building she took classes when she was a kid. She tears up thinking about the handwritten letters she’s saved from students—letters thanking her for sharing her gift and helping her students realize their own talents.
One week each year, Davis partners with the nonprofit community workshop Vector Space to host a mural artwork camp, where her students design and complete a mural in five days. “It’s collaborative work. We draw in sections and there’s a lot of laughing, even as we critique our work.”
Davis believes that having an outlet for self-expression will help children throughout their lives. “One of my students learned to do art before math because it calmed him down,” Davis says. “There are plenty of scientific studies about the benefits of art for children. It’s so good to be able to switch hemispheres in your brain because then you can get that sigh of relief, even on a rainy day.”
And through the self-expression that art allows, we’re able to move forward, Davis adds.
Last year, her friend who owns the Craft Crucible called again. He was doing some improvements around the building and asked Davis if she was ready for another mural. She didn’t hesitate to respond.
“I don’t mind rolling over walls,’ Davis says. “I tell my students and my daughters, it’s good to embrace moving forward.”
Today, the side of the Craft Crucible is another mural artwork larger-than-life, jewel-tone piece filled with energy and impact. “Unspoken Vibes has a lot of sunshine and is a piece about happiness,” Davis says. It’s another shout-out to the women of Lynchburg breaking barriers, enriching culture, and inspiring the next generation.”
Lynchburg is home to many amazing artists and public art. If you haven’t taken the time to explore the creations around the city, we encourage you to do so!