Seattle-based artist Moses Sun is in town for an artist residency with Stetson University’s Creative Arts Department, and has created a mural at the Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts Amphitheater in the Spring Hill community, 322 S. Clara Ave.
Plans for the mural have been in the works for more than a year, but were curtailed first by COVID-19, and delayed again by the creation of the DeLand Public Mural Art Committee.
Completed April 21-27, the new mural is the first step in the process of updating the amphitheater, as part of a $30,000 partnership with the African American Museum of the Arts and the Creative Arts Department at Stetson University.
Sun, an interdisciplinary artist inspired by music, has created murals for prominent Seattle institutions, including the Columbia City Theater and Wing Luke Museum. He participated in a Black Lives Matter mural at the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone, an autonomous zone established by protesters in Seattle in the wake of the George Floyd murder.
“It’s been great — very welcoming. The members of the community I have met have really embraced it,” Sun said, regarding the DeLand mural.
Stetson University students as well as community members stopped by to lend a hand over the seven-day process.
The prominent position of the mural, which covers the entire back wall of the amphitheater, has drawn curious onlookers, some of whom came back to paint.
One of them, Monique Taylor, explained, “We grew up here.”
Taylor and her twin sister, Monicka, grew up down the street from the site of the amphitheater. As children, they volunteered at the African American Museum of the Arts.
“We were visiting my parents down the street, saw this was happening, and decided to come back,” Monique Taylor said.
The mural is a mix of abstract free-form drawing, with a silhouette of Noble Watts and his saxophone in the center. The amphitheater was named to honor Watts, a DeLand native widely recognized for his sax skills, shortly before Watts’ death in 2004.
“Because my work is abstract, different diasporas bring their own meanings to it,” Sun said.
Sun, who has worked to create art in diverse spaces, like Seattle’s Chinatown, said in the abstract drawings people see references to Cuban music, Brazilian heritage, and even Chinese characters.
For Sun, his influences are tied to his own childhood.
“Much of my work is influenced by my Southern upbringing in North Carolina,” Sun said. “In particular, my father, who was very much a friend of the world. He was very civic-minded.”
That’s a role Sun plays too, as the creator of works in public spaces.
“Art is civic — art is necessary for humanity,” Sun said.
Visit the mural at Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts Amphitheater 322 S. Clara Ave. in DeLand For other works by Moses Sun, visit instagram.com/moses_sun or www.mosessun.studio.