The Magnolia Literacy Project
A Vibrant View: Mississippi on a Native Daughter’s Canvas
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
By LaWanda Dickens
Reshonda Perryman (pictured above) designed the Jackson Icons mural, which celebrates literature, civil rights, performance art, and music in Mississippi.
Artist Reshonda Perryman’s most personal creations tell a two-fold story of her life: as a Mississippian and as a native of Fayette.
“Not only did I grow up in a state where people are automatically dismissed and discounted, but on top of that, I’m from Fayette, a town that most people know nothing about,” Perryman told Literacy Shapers.
Known for creating vibrant, visual narratives, she masterfully balances critical consciousness with optimism and simplicity while challenging the stigma of Mississippi as “a racist place where illiterate, ignorant people walk dirt roads”.
Perryman insists that, “As a Black woman, [she] knows the unfortunate realities of Mississippi, but [she] also knows that there is so much more to [her] state than bigotry and turmoil.”
Her perception of Mississippi is rooted in the encouraging environment she experienced growing up and the exposure she received from her mother and father. Perryman expressed appreciation for her parents' pivotal roles in her life, "I am forever grateful to both of them for the opportunities they afforded me and for nurturing my gifts from a very young age".
While her vantage point as an artist is shaped by her upbringing, it is also informed by her experiences at Jackson State University and Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she opted for a career in service-based design to empower Mississippians facing economic disparities and other systemic pressures.
Perryman is the Creative Design Manager for Visit Jackson. In this role, she helps Jacksonians visualize the cultural significance of their hometown and increases the city’s tourist appeal by spotlighting hotels, restaurants, museums, entertainment, and other attractions.
“I capture positivity,” which she says is the motivation behind any work that she creates in connection with her home state.
One of Perryman’s most popular designs is the Jackson Icons mural, commissioned by Visit Jackson. Her purpose was to promote the city by highlighting Jacksonians who have shaped history in four areas: literature, civil rights, performance art, and music.
Featured in the display are author, Eudora Welty; civil rights leader, Medger Evers; ballet dancer and educator, Thalia Mara; and hip hop mogul, David Banner.
The exhibit greets onlookers from the back wall of the Old Capitol Inn, in downtown Jackson across from the Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History.
“When you say ‘Eudora Welty’ or ‘Medger Evers’, people know who you’re talking about,” said Perryman, “but the mural has increased Mississippians' awareness of Mara and Banner, who are both major game changers.”
Perryman explained that Mara, a former Jackson State professor, helped found the USA International Ballet Competition, one of the world’s top ballet events. Describing the sense of pride she felt in designing Mara’s image on the mural, Perryman pointed out that Jackson is the only U.S. city to host this competition, which is attended by bronze, silver, and gold medal dancers from various countries.
“This is incredible history that all Mississippians should be proud of.”
In discussing her choice to include Banner (rapper, actor, record producer, activist, and philanthropist), Perryman told Literacy Shapers that he, “represents the young, talented Black Jacksonian who is unrecognized and underrepresented.”
Although the four leaders profiled in Jackson Icons reflect Mississippi’s emerging culture of diversity, Perryman set out to capture unity while also highlighting each subject’s uniqueness.
"Where unity is concerned, I specifically used similar abstract colors for all of them because I didn't want to focus on race, but instead on their collective influence on Mississippi's growth and vibrancy."
Perryman illustrated each icon’s uniqueness by setting the images apart with a small touch of contrasting color, which signifies their exclusive mark on Mississippi’s culture.”
Vivid colors are ingrained in Perryman’s brand, and images of the state map are prevalent in her signature collection. This approach to artistic design represents her rejection of stereotypes against Mississippi.
Firmly reinforcing the platform on which her work is built, Perryman stated, “Everyone has insecurities. Every place has its flaws. But in my art, I have full control over my narrative as a Mississippian. No one gets that privilege but me.”
To see more of Perryman’s work, visit: pixelspaint.com
The Magnolia Literacy Project’s
initiative to showcase the writing and art
Click here to donate.