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Ayres-Brown: Something that jumps out to me in the mural is [that] it depicts a number of figures — their faces, their profiles. And what jumped out to me are the colors — the vivid pinks, purples, and blues — and the way these colors are intertwined between the figures and, particularly, their hair, which is very prominent in the mural. What was your process and intention behind some of those choices?

Viruet: Growing up, I never really was able to find characters that I could relate to. So I always made it a focus that I wanted to have my characters to be diverse, whether it was expressing it through hair, color, eye shape. And I think that's very important because as humans, we're very diverse, and it's bothersome when I see things kind of the same. And I want people to know that you can find yourself in my drawings.

Ayres-Brown: And the mural is on the facade of the Art Museum’s education building, and above the door, you have this sentence in capitalized lettering, “FIND YOUR STYLE.” Could you tell me what’s the significance or meaning behind that?

Viruet: So growing up, I really liked to watch animated films and watch animated TV shows and stuff like that. And, you know, it was okay to redraw other people's work and use their style. However, you want to be able to find your own style. Something that people can look at and say like, ‘Okay, like that was created by XYZ’ and not ‘Oh, like this person copied this other person's style.’

And I've always said finding your style is a journey and it's okay to be influenced by different people. But, as I was taught, is [to] take things from various different artists that you like. If you like this particular person's linework, use that. You like this person’s, the way they use color, use that. But don't copy them. Like meld your stuff together and find your style or your way of drawing.

Ayres-Brown: This mural project was largely organized by Newport Public Art, a local organization focused on creating accessible art — and opportunities for emerging artists. For this mural, I heard your idea was selected from more than 50 proposals. And I’m curious, how did it feel to have that recognition, and what was it like working with Newport Public Art?

Viruet: When I originally applied for it, I had some very daring and lovely friends who were, you know, encouraging me. They're like, ‘Shaday, if you don't apply for this, I swear to God, I'm going to kill you!’ Like, obviously joking around. And I'm just like, ‘I'll do it.’ I honestly did not think I would come out on top, or win it. I was just like, ‘You know what, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna try it and if it doesn't work out, that's okay. You know, it is what it is.’

And when I did find out that I was selected, I literally fan-girl screamed. I had come home from a long day, and I was just like, ‘This day can’t get any worse.’ And then I saw that email and I was like, ‘Ah! I got selected!’

Ayres-Brown: I imagine this mural is both literally and figuratively a pretty large platform or medium — and it’ll be up for the next couple years. What impact do you hope it'll have on viewers? Or more generally, you mentioned representation, what impact do you hope it’ll have on the variety of art represented publicly here in Newport?

Viruet: One of the things I hope is that people can see illustration as a form of art. You know, when we think of arts that are in museums, we think of like, you know, Leonardo da Vinci. We think of like classic Renaissance. We think of like cubist art. We think of like Jackson Pollock and stuff like that.

And illustration has never really gotten recognized for being art. Like we illustrators, we work hard. Graphic designers, we work hard. We think of color. We think of shapes…So that's like one of my biggest things is, I hope that when people see this, they can think that just because I don't draw like these old masters, doesn't mean that I'm any less of an artist.

Ayres-Brown: Shaday Viruet is an artist and designer from Newport who painted a mural opening this week at the Newport Art Museum. Thanks so much for speaking with me, Shaday.

Viruet: You’re welcome.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio and a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org