Adam Interviews Shawn Dunwoody

Adam Interviews
Just like his murals, Dunwoody is seemingly everywhere.
Many of his projects draw in students who readily pick up a paint brush to leave a lasting mark on their community.
Dunwoody sat down with Adam Chodak to talk about growing up in The Crescent of Rochester and his mission to spread good will through art.
Adam: How did you get attached to Frederick Douglass?
Dunwoody: It started literally from portraying Frederick Douglass. I had the opportunity to portray him in his 5th of July speech and from there I started to go a little deeper, reading his autobiography and learning more about this push through and direct state of slavery and oppression and being able to become this person who’s Rochester’s favorite son. I realized there’s a value in who you are, not where you’re at. Never place where you are and say that’s who you’re going to be. You’re only confined as much as your mind will allow you to.
Adam: It’s not just through your clothes or your personality, but it’s also through your work, you have invented yourself, in a way.
Dunwoody: That’s a really good way of putting it. Invention. I’ve wanted to be something that I wanted to see when I was younger. Outside of the walls I want people to express themselves and be who they are and who they are at this point in the world and understand how what they do creates ripple effects for generations to come. Mural making for me now is about engagement. Of course, I paint a portrait, but it’s really about who’s there with me, who’s alongside with  me. It’s about being present. When I take on a mural project I like to be engaged in the community, being part of what’s happening, what’s going on and invite those people to create the mural and physically paint it because you have this sense of investment and ownership and you can actually point to it 20 or 30 years later and say, “Hey, I made that color blue.” You don’t know who you’re going to pass the baton onto and shape their neighborhood and be the town crier for what  is right and what needs to happen in their neighborhood. People are people. They generally want a beautiful neighborhood, they want connectivity and they want some energy so regardless of where you are I’ve seen the same pattern play out wherever I am.
Adam: You said back in the day when you were a teenager you went out on the street to do what at the time you felt like you had to. How did  you break the mold? How did you realize this wasn’t what you wanted to do?
Dunwoody: I was still a little off while I was out there. They were like, “Rou shouldn’t be out here.” I’d wear things like dried chicken bones and dried frogs around my neck and they were like, “You shouldn’t be out here.” … Those folks on the corner were actually my first support system, they were like, “Do what you need to do,  we’ve got your back.”

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