When acclaimed, Syracuse-based, children’s book illustrator London Ladd was asked to be part of a project to help revitalize the gateway to the Southside of Syracuse he jumped at the opportunity. The walls beneath the bridge at the corner of Salina and Taylor Streets would become his canvas. He would paint on them the images of Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass. On the surface these two would make for obvious choices, but for Ladd the meaning runs much deeper. “Both of these men came to Syracuse to speak at the height of some of the most pivotal times in American history (King with the Civil Rights Movement and Douglass during the Civil War) so their voices were echoed on these streets in this zip code. Bringing that history back to life fills me with pride.”
These are his second and third murals. The first was of Underground Railroad Manager Jermaine Logan and his family at the corner of Cherry Street and Lexington Avenue. Doing something in a public forum on such a big scale presents a unique set of challenges. “It’s great to work large, but I realized quickly there is an equal amount of fun and terror because everyone is watching the process so I need to be on my game at all times.”
Ladd says the response was overwhelmingly positive with many people from all walks of life watching the progress of the murals which he hopes will have an impact long after they are complete. “Legacy is the word I most attribute to this work. For me, the purpose of these images is much more than visual. It’s an inspiration of hope.” Douglass’ story in particular resonates with Ladd, in how a former slave could become one of the nation’s most renowned orators of our time.
Ladd hopes to have them done by the end of July, and will then focus his time on other writing and illustrating projects as well as a new venture. “I’m looking to get back to my roots even further and open an art center where people can come and create, with no judgement, and just have fun with the process of art.” This “community” as Ladd calls it harkens him back to his childhood when he was first introduced to art. He wants to share those same feelings with others.