You may have seen bright, colorful murals popping up all over Shreveport recently and wondered what has been going on. Artist Ka’Davien Baylor has been making his mark on the city in hopes of inspiring change and creativity.
Baylor jokes that he’s been an artist since birth, but it’s mainly the truth. At two and three years old he was drawing on the furniture and the walls in his childhood home. As he got older, Baylor became an entrepreneur and started selling commissioned drawings of other students’ favorite cartoon characters.
“In middle school, I started drawing rappers and stuff like that from Source Magazine, getting more into realism,” explained Baylor. “Then I started getting into like the talented arts program in Caddo Parish and the Norton Art Gallery, I did some things with SRAC and some of their art programs and then I moved on to college.”
Despite his obvious passion for art, Baylor began his college career wanting to go into chemical engineering. It didn’t take long for him to realize he needed to chase his passion and not money to be fulfilled in life.
“I was like, ‘don’t play yourself, stay in the realm of what you’re good at’ and I’ve been doing a lot of reading about self help and just trying to learn more about myself and how to be more impactful with my life,” said Baylor. “I was starting to realize life is about more than just the surface level, so I changed my major from chemical engineering over to communication design and that was perfect.”
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Baylor worked in the oil and gas field to pay bills while doing art on the side, but now public artist is his full time gig. A Houston, Texas-based artist Reginald Adams took Baylor under his wing and introduced him to the world of creating public art and its importance to the community.
“We did some really dope projects like working with the Emancipation Park UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Galveston, Texas, we did the first Juneteenth mural that’s like 50 feet by 120 something feet and that was my first time going up on a boom doing stuff at that level,” Baylor explained. “I was like, this is for me because I wasn’t intimidated at all, it felt natural and I led the team most of the time.”
Baylor decided it was time to bring what he had learned back home to Shreveport. His first project was the “Leaders of Tomorrow” that can be found at 33 Marshall St. He collaborated with local artists who had also wanted to see change for a long time.
“Working with the Boys and Girls Club and putting the public in public art is something that, you know, I focus on and something that I learned in Houston,” Baylor said. “After that, I really started doing a lot of school projects working with a lot of kids and working with SCORE the nonprofit.”
SCORE stands for Setting Children On the Road to Excellence and this nonprofit allowed Baylor to collaborate with a lot of different schools to do projects. Former councilwoman LeVette Fuller noticed Baylor’s work and dedication and introduced him to public artist Ben Moss and the two collaborated on “Origin Court” that debuted in October 2021 at Valencia Park.
With the leftover funds from “Origin Court” Baylor and his team presented the painting of the underpass to the public art approval board who gave the green light to their vision.
“When it came to the underpass, I opened up to what needs to be communicated. I’d been using the butterfly as a symbol of transformation through multiple projects that I’ve done through schools, through basketball courts, through the underpass. It’s been the butterfly for me because of metamorphosis; symbolization that the city needs constant growth and attainment of more and higher.”
The underpass will be named “Ascension Underpass” with the message to “constantly go higher, to ascend and to constantly be trying to get better for yourselves, because when you can be the best for yourself, you can be the best for everyone around you .”
“Ascension Underpass” will debut on Thursday, August 4 at 5:30 pm under the I-20 overpass on Marshall St. in Shreveport.
Meredith G. White is the arts and culture reporter for the Shreveport Times. You can find her on Facebook as Meredith G. White, on Instagram and Twitter as @meredithgwhite, and email her at [email protected]