Culminating with a student-led “A Conversation with Shepard Fairey”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 18, 2021) – Acclaimed American contemporary artist Shepard Fairey will paint a social-justice themed mural on the campus of Queens University of Charlotte this week. The custom mural, titled “Embrace Justice” will be painted on the Wellesley Avenue side of the Sarah Belk Gambrell Center for the Arts and Civic Engagement.
“We could not be more pleased that this magnificent and important work is coming to the right place at the right time,” said Queens University President Dan Lugo. “When the Gambrell Foundation made a lead gift to our fine arts building capital project, they were thoughtful about naming the Sarah Belk Gambrell Center for the Arts and Civic Engagement, charging us to use creativity and the arts to get students out of their comfort zones and right into the challenges of the Charlotte community. This timely, accessible and enduring work conveys Queens’ commitment to convening sincere civic and cultural dialogue in our community and magnifies our motto ‘not to be served, but to serve.”
Fairey is a graphic artist and social activist who is part of the Street Art movement. Though well-known for his “Obey” sticker campaign that he eventually turned into the global brand, Fairey shot to national fame as the graphic artist behind the iconic 2008 poster of Barack Obama, a portrait labeled simply “HOPE” in a style that was described as Andy Warhol meets socialist realism.
“I believe that art in public space encourages community dialogue and discourse, so I’m really looking forward to painting a mural at Queens University with a message of hope and respect,” Fairey said.
Fairey has family connections to Queens. His mother Charlotte Fairey ’65 and sister McRae (Fairey) Oyeossi ’96 are Queens alums. As a Fairey was launching a project in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Charlotte Fairey connected mural artist and Queens University Professor Mike Wirth and Arts at Queens to the Obey Giant team in Los Angeles.
“This mural is a call to action of the hard work we still have to do to unify our communities,” Wirth said. “I’m thankful that our students get to experience art and graphic design as activism in a center dedicated to creative civic engagement right here on their own campus.”
“These long-lasting ties to our alumni are at the heart of what makes Queens so special through the generations,” said Sara Henley, director of Arts at Queens. “With this permanent artwork, the Fairey family is sharing a considerable artistic legacy for the enjoyment of our campus and surrounding community. The piece exemplifies the responsibility and privilege of living civic engagement through the arts each and every day.”
Work has begun to prep the wall for Fairey to begin painting midweek. The work will be completed prior to a special event, a “Conversation with Shepard Fairey” moderated by Queens University Professor and Artist Mike Wirth, where Fairey will offer his take on the intersection of arts and civic engagement.
When: Friday, Oct. 22, 5-6 p.m.
Where: Gambrell Center for the Arts and Civic Engagement
Sandra Levine Theater
2319 Wellesley Ave, Charlotte, NC
Doors open at 5 p.m. Registration is required. At the request of the Fairey family, all patrons are required to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a valid negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event date. Visitors are welcome to view Fairey’s new mural outside of the building before or after the event.
ABOUT SHEPARD FAIREY
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Fairey earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1989 he created the “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker that transformed into the OBEY GIANT art campaign, with imagery that has changed the way people see art and the urban landscape. After more than 30 years, his work has evolved into an acclaimed body of art, including the 2008 “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama, found at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. In 2017, he collaborated with Amplifier to create the “We the People” series, which was recognizable during the Women’s Marches and other rallies worldwide in defense of national and global social justice issues.
Fairey’s stickers, guerilla street art presence, and public murals are recognizable globally. His works are in the permanent collections of the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and many others. Fairey has painted more than 110 largescale murals across six continents worldwide. For more information, visit www.OBEYGIANT.com.
Queens University is a private, coeducational university located in Charlotte, N.C. The university serves nearly 2,500 students with 43 major and 63 minor undergraduate degree options and 12 graduate degrees. Students represent 44 states and 70 foreign countries. As part of the university’s vision to promote educational experiences that nurture intellectual curiosity and promote global understanding, nearly two-thirds of traditional undergraduates participate in study abroad experiences and 100 percent take part in internships. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Queens 15th among regional universities in the south in its 2022 edition of Best Colleges.