Margaret Grayson ©️ Seven Days
The Afronaut mural at Champlain Elementary
A new mural at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington was completed this week by artists Will Kasso Condry and Jennifer Herrera Condry
, with the help of their daughter, Alexa, and dozens of local children.
The colorful, Afrofuturist mural was originally intended for another South End wall, but was rejected by the business owner
. Soon after, the mural's commissioners, tenants of the Soda Plant on Pine Street, started a crowdfunding campaign and issued a citywide “Call for a Wall.”
The artwork, which centers on an vibrant, angel-like afronaut, quickly found a home at Champlain Elementary
, where principal Joe Resteghini said he’d been in touch with Kasso Condry about a potential mural since last year. Previous plans had been delayed by the pandemic.
“It’s a beautiful statement of anti-racism and community building,” Resteghini said. “Creating an anti-racist space involves making sure that the representation of characters and cultures that students see are representative of the people that live and work in our community.”
He said the work helps teachers and students have developmentally appropriate conversations about race.
Courtesy of Homer Horowitz
Will Kasso Condry at work on the mural
Kasso Condry and Herrera Condry began work on the mural on September 16, and spent nearly every daylight hour at the school for a week.
The piece centers on Black joy and often includes science fiction themes — hence the afronaut, “a Black warrior who travels through space and time fighting for justice for all Black, Indigenous and Brown folks,” according to the artists' statement.
The wall at the school is larger than the wall for which the mural was originally planned. Kasso Condry and Herrera Condry had assistance from Burlington artists Will Gebhard
and Lilly Xian
. Students came to help out during the school day and after school, and King Street Center
kids joined on weekends.
On Monday afternoon, kids decorated geometric pieces of parachute cloth in bright colors under the guiding eye of Alexa Herrera Condry. Alexa, who was the model for the afronaut, works with her parents and took the lead on arranging the student contributions into a cohesive design for the afronaut’s wings.
“Now we’re going to become her
assistants,” Kasso Condry said of his daughter. “It feels good. Every generation, literally, is being represented in this mural.”
Courtesy of Homer Horowitz
Will Kasso Condry, Jennifer Herrera Condry and Alexa Herrera Condry
As of Friday, the mural’s IndieGoGo campaign
was just short of its $10,000 goal. Over 30 businesses and individuals had signed onto the campaign’s statement about the importance of diverse representation in public art. The money will go toward mural costs and compensating the artists, with excess funds donated to the King Street Center.
Kasso Condry and Herrera Condry, who work together under the name Juniper Creative Arts
, live in Brandon and have created murals around the state. Another of their works, a digitally designed piece called “Lady Liberation,” is currently hanging on the side of ArtsRiot
. It was sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s, and encourages voting in the general election on November 3.
The couple are also already planning their next public art projects.
"You'll be seeing a lot more of us in Burlington," Kasso Condry said.
Correction, September 25: A previous version of this story contained inaccurate information about Herrera Condry's employment.