Kevin King is spurring artistic creativity and social change.
The founder of King’s Canvas in Montgomery helped create the painting of a mural around a downtown fountain that has captured national attention.
“Our goal with King’s Canvas is to strategically break down barriers that restrict assets to certain people,” King said. “On this Juneteenth anniversary, King’s Canvas, along with 21 Dreams in Montgomery, painted a Black Lives Matter mural around a fountain at One Court Square in downtown Montgomery, which used to be Market Street, where slaves were marched from the Alabama River to be bought and sold. We reclaimed that with permission of the mayor. Now it became a place of peace and reconciliation in Montgomery, when it used to be a source of pain.”
Seeing such renewal and potential is one of King’s gifts.
King’s Canvas is a studio and gallery in Montgomery that focuses on providing space and resources for underexposed and underdeveloped artists. Its mission is simple, yet speaks loudly during this time. King believes the arts can be a lifeline for people searching for expression and meaning.
“I grew up loving the arts, but when I graduated from high school I stopped doing it,” he said. “My wife and daughter got me some art supplies for Father’s Day back in 2013, and that’s what got me back into it. People in the community would come to me and ask if they could learn to draw or paint because it would help them with their depression or anxiety. I saw that there was a need in the community for this.”
King noticed that downtown Montgomery was exploding with art exhibits and activity with abundant resources, but West Montgomery artists suffered from lack of networking, access to tools and affordable spaces to exhibit their work. So he founded King’s Canvas, a place that provides opportunity and access for underrepresented artists.
“I would go to galleries and art shows and see there wasn’t huge representation from the African American community in those spaces. So I established the King’s Canvas to be a place for people of all walks of life, people who felt marginalized. I established King’s Canvas to give those artists a place to cultivate their craft, and officially incorporated in 2017.”
The Alabama Power Foundation supported King with a grant in January 2020.
“We are thankful for the Alabama Power Foundation for their support,” King said.
King sees economic equality as a need not yet met in Montgomery.
“We are serving anyone in the Washington Park community who feels marginalized, and we have the solutions on how to fix the issues in our own communities,” he said. “But when we aren’t the ones getting the funding to do it, our voices are limited.”
King sees the arts as a path to a fuller life that can brighten the shades of inequality.
“I believe arts are always important to any economic development process,” King said. “People can use art to transform cities. We are an art studio but everything we do is strategic.” The studio is for “anyone just starting out who needs a space to practice, even more-established artists who just feel like their work is going unnoticed.”
Being noticed. That’s a big part of what King’s Canvas provides. The artists have their work hanging in proud spaces, accepted by minds and hearts. They’re noticed. They matter.
King’s Canvas and others who painted “BLACK LIVES MATTER” around the fountain in Montgomery were noticed. The project, spearheaded by Michelle Browder of More Than Tours with help from King’s Canvas and 21 Dreams, was featured on the “Today Show” on NBC.
“When we get art supplies to an artist who needs them or allow somebody to come in and work out of our space, it makes me feel beyond good,” King said.
For more information, visit www.thekingscanvas.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].