Marian Anderson was a Danbury resident, an accomplished musician and a civil rights activist.

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Anderson was the first African-American to take the stage and perform at the Metropolitan Opera. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. Her list of accomplishments worldwide are lengthy, as was her work in the Hat City, specifically with the Danbury Music Center which is now named after her.

Back in August of 2021, the City of Danbury announced a competition, searching for an artist to paint a mural of Marian Anderson in Kennedy Park. The winner of that competition was Luana Barcelos. Luana recently wrapped up this beautiful work of art, and we reached out to ask her about her work. The following are those queries and Luana's responses:

Are you a Danbury Resident?
I am in fact a Danbury resident. Have lived here my entire life. Graduated from Danbury High School in 2018 and just graduated from UConn this May with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration
 
How old are you?
21
 
What do you do for a living? 
I am a full-time freelance muralist and artist.
 
What drew you to art? 
I’ve always been drawn to art. Since I was in 5th grade, the spark originally ignited there, my teacher had us work on a project where we illustrated a picture about an Aesop’s fables. The story I drew a picture of was of the Lion and Mouse. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I grabbed some colored pencils and got straight to it. My teacher was so surprised that I had created the piece all by myself and she told me to keep it up! I never stopped. My passion for muraling began at Danbury High School. My sophomore year English class was learning about Banksy, a world renowned street artist, who does a lot of public pieces that cause a call for action. We learned about how much of an impact art can have. I asked my teacher Jana John if I could recreate one of his pieces and she was completely on board. That’s when I realized the bigger the canvas the more fun I have with it! I always wanted to be an artist full time but as I was applying to college I began to doubt my abilities and kept hearing the proverbial “starving artist” “real job” commentary. So I figured why not put my people skills to work, I knew I could excel in a business arena. However, some force always lead me back to pursuing art. Even when I was going to UConn, studying business, I was commissioned by UConn to paint a mural in their student lounge. And with that project, came another, and another. The business just kept growing and I realized that the only thing that could possibly be in my way is myself. By my junior year, I decided I would smash the stereotype and use my business degree to build up my mural/art business. I have never looked back and am absolutely confident that I made the right decision.
 
If my memory serves correctly, there was a local competition to find the artist who would be responsible for the Marian Anderson mural. When did you enter that competition? How many other artists submitted something? Did your audition piece look very different from your final product? 
The city of Danbury had posted an artist call to all Connecticut residents to create a mural in honor of Marian Anderson. My friend had seen it on social media and sent it to me and said that she thought I would be perfect for it. I was immediately interested so I submitted my proposal for it  sometime in September I believe, the dates for that are someone jumbled in my head. I was never told the exact number of people who auditioned but from what I gathered it was about 10 people. I later found out that I was the youngest artist to apply, which was absolutely insane to hear! The piece that I submitted did look a bit different from the final product. The selection committee loved my style and concept but they requested that I add some elements to it that represented not only who Marian Anderson was but who she was to the city of Danbury.
 
What attracted you to this project more, was it the subject or the opportunity to do such a large-scale project? 
I would say that the subject of the mural drew me to the project equally as the opportunity to create it. As a POC myself and a woman, I just thought it was such an incredible thing that there was a mural going up of not only a woman but a black woman. Representation is such a fundamentally important thing. It was a really great educational opportunity as well because everyone who walked by would ask who she was and what her story was. There is just something so special about it.
 
What does Marian Anderson's life mean to you? You must be proud to be associated with her?
This project was extra special to me, not only because of how big it is, but I just felt connected to her story. Her story inspired me and made me reflect on my life and my parents lives. They immigrated from Brazil and I experienced first hand the difficulties of establishing yourself and your family in another country. I feel like me painting it was almost a full circle moment, she fought for her rights to self expression, and there I was living in and creating in what she stood for. Of course, the opportunity to have my work displayed on such a large and public platform is HUGE. I had painted several smaller scale murals prior to this one. But it was always a dream of mine to get the opportunity to paint something that big. I knew that I was capable of doing it I just needed the chance!
What does the future hold for you? What goals do you hope to achieve as an artist?
Now that I have painted this mural I just know that the sky is the limit for me. My goal is to create for the rest of my life in all sizes and mediums. I would absolutely love to get the opportunity to paint more large scale public murals like that one. A personal goal, that many people don’t know about, is I want to illustrate my own children’s book. That’s always been a little dream of mine. For now, I’m focusing more on muraling because the bigger the canvas the better!

The Marian Anderson mural was the subject of a recent episode of "This Week in the City."

Lou Milano
Lou Milano
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