Published May 31, 2021
Meet the artist: Gentry Parker
Gentry Parker sees art as “an opportunity to speak out and put my feelings on canvas.”
He and longtime friend Elijah Stephen did that last June when they painted the mural “Take a Stand” on the board that covered the window of the former Grand Union Tattoo Parlor on Mass. Ave. That piece is now part of “RESPONSE: Images and Sounds of a Movement,” open June 5-Sept. 6 in the Indiana State Museum’s Legacy Theater.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone who comes out to the gallery,” he said. “And I’m excited for what’s in store.”
Parker, 28, said he began to take art seriously in his senior year at Cardinal Ritter High School, where he learned calligraphy and painting, and studied poetry and other means of expression. While Parker was experimenting with different styles, he was also playing basketball – he attended Bellarmine University in Louisville, where he was on the team for two years – and working in various roles. These days, he’s an entrepreneur in sales and marketing, security, videography and art.
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In an interview, he talked about what he wanted to achieve with “Take a Stand.”
Tell me about the piece you have in the exhibit.
After some of the protests, fear of retaliation and the response from the public, and seeing all the boards put up, I saw an opportunity. Out of all this destruction and chaos, our city looked abandoned. I wanted to bring beauty back to the city.
It must have been exciting when you settled on the design and saw people taking pictures in front of it.
Absolutely. There was an amazing outreach from all our peers and coworkers – anyone and everyone who wanted to share their concerns as well as try to uplift us at the same time. It was refreshing, especially at a dark time.
What is it like to have a piece in a museum?
It still hasn’t really settled in. I think it’ll take for me to be there and see it. Right now, it’s still something I’m trying to wrap my head around. I never imagined I would find myself at this point. And that’s what makes this even more beautiful to me. This is something I wanted to do out of pure joy. Just let it flow and put whatever I felt on the canvas. For it to turn into this just shows you the power of your thoughts and the power of your actions and how you can truly do anything you put your mind to.
What do you want people to take away from this exhibit?
I hope it does a few things. I want to inspire. I want to show that there is art that can come from anywhere and everywhere, and that everyone in their own way is an artist. It is up to you to find the best way to express that, if you would like to. But it also asks a question: What do you stand for? Let’s focus on what you truly believe. Let’s focus on the type of future we want to create, the environment we want to live in, the type of standards we want to set for those to come. I hope that as we reflect on our history, we don’t make the same mistakes that we made in the past. We need to find a way to come together, focus on what’s right and what’s just for all, and move forward in a happy and loving environment that can nurture and create the dreams that we want to come true for everyone. Because at the end of the day, I think we all want the same things. So I hope when they see this piece that they’re enlightened and that they see the colors and it opens their eyes to hope and our future.
Like much of the nation, Indianapolis experienced days of protests in June 2020. Artists stepped up to quickly express their frustrations and hopes. Now, one year later, the Indiana State Museum, Arts Council of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Public Library are teaming up to present exhibitions of murals painted by these artists after the protests, and hold discussions designed to increase community understanding of what occurred and why. Visit Legacy Theater on Level One from June 5 to Sept. 6, 2021 to see the six murals painted by Indianapolis artists and business owners. This exhibit is free to the public.