by Rosalie Murphy
Dray Evans, a West Akron tattoo artist, filmmaker, painter and muralist, and a group of his neighbors painted a mural on the side of Mr. Pantry at Copley Road and Storer Avenue on July 14.
Dray, a 1999 Buchtel grad, grew up a block away from the convenience store. He says Buchtel students have used it as a stopping point and hangout for decades, but in recent years, there’s been a lot of violence on nearby blocks. This summer, a group of PTA parents asked him to paint the side of the store.
Now, when light illuminates the dove on the side of Mr. Pantry at night, Dray says it looks like “a guardian angel over the city.”
This conversation between Rosalie Murphy, Dray Evans and Kenneth Amos has been edited for brevity.
Rosalie Murphy: Why did you create this mural?
Dray Evans: I’m from here. I’m from the west side, a street over. I grew up on Noble. So this place means a lot to me… Diana Autry from the PTA at Buchtel was trying to do something to bring something nice to the store, because [there’s been] a lot of violence and the neighborhoods have been bad and negative. A friend of mine, Kellie King, reached out to me and I was just open to the opportunity because I grew up at this store. My little cousin, Little Will, Willie Brewer, he got killed here. It was in honor of him, so I appreciate someone writing his name on the wall. I definitely did it for the neighborhood. It’s a blessing, people ride past and be like, ‘ah, that’s beautiful, I love it, thanks for the positivity.’ It’s a great feeling. I love it.
RM: Who helped you paint?
DE: This was a collective. I didn’t do it myself. It was some Buchtel students, some younger kids, even my daughter, she helped paint the grass, they painted the rocks over there. It was a collaborative effort. I did the top part, the whole dove and the clouds… and [Kenneth’s] concept was the animals.
Kenneth Amos: I got the snakes all the way over there because, you know, people should leave the snakes out the way. I drew the elephants, and the elephants are surrounded by rocks, because it’s strong families coming from tough times. I drew the toucan, which means willing to be heard or seen. There’s a sloth right under the dove that represents wisdom. And then I drew the panther to represent pride, dignity and standing up for what you believe in.
DE: How did taking part in this make you feel?
KA: It felt good to do something for so many people, especially the people that have bad memories here. It’s good to be able to create something, make them feel good, and be able to attract other people. Some people want to help in the community but it’s hard for them to be able to, because they feel like they alone… it gives a sense of being able to come along with us.
Kenneth Amos, a 2019 Buchtel grad, will start his bachelor’s degree at Marietta College later this summer.
Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip. Photo: Dray Evans and Kenneth Amos in front of the new mural.