Memories of playing youth sports and later mentoring youth were inspirations for JT Daniels’ latest work, the Raised Royal Mural gracing the bridge west of the Truman Sports Complex off of Stadium Drive.
Daniels, who is a former youth development coordinator at Mattie Rhodes Center said, “The Royals actually came to Mattie Rhodes Center in conjunction with Downtown Arts Council, looking for information on hiring artists... After having a conversation, they thought about me working with kids and decided they didn’t have a youth-based mural, and what better way to tie the public in than to get their kids tied in with an actual project?”
Several young artists from the Mattie Rhodes Center helped Daniels with his painting of the mural. “It’s really great getting their input and their liveliness and seeing how they mix the colors. Everything’s not pitch perfect or spot on because they’re not trained painters, but it really brings that youthful vibe to the mural,” he said. “The murals they’re included on, it becomes very personal and they take ownership of that. So usually when the community takes ownership of it, especially the youth, that’s something they’re sharing with everyone else and looking out for it. No one tags it, no one messes it up, and there’s like that hometown pride that grows into being a part of that.”
Thirteen-year-old Jackson Harrison of Liberty, Mo., said, “The week before we started this I did Teen Art Camp at Mattie Rhodes. Anthony came in on the last day and asked us if we’d be interested in doing the mural the following week…Not only was it a team effort from everybody…I mean it’s part of the Kauffman and it symbolizes all of Kansas City and I felt honored to be part of that...I think the Mattie Rhodes program is fantastic and a very supportive system. It’s not just basic 'do this.' They give you a lot of freedom in your artwork and it’s an amazing experience."
Daniels’ mural is the fifth in a series commissioned by the Kansas City Royals. The painting depicts youthful baseball players celebrating with a trophy on one side of the bridge and a group with their arms around each other on the other side. The faces are not defined so that anyone can envision themselves as part of the celebration.
According to the Royals website the mural program was, “inspired by the vibrant arts community of the Kansas City area.” Local artists were selected to create murals depicting their interpretation of this year’s Raised Royal theme. “We are eager to see this year's theme come to life through the eyes of local artists and are hopeful that fans from all over the Midwest will view these works in person, as they have with the other murals that have enriched the Kansas City arts scene over the past several years.”
The first mural to be completed was by Phil Shafer on Grand Boulevard, the second was on the north side of the Town Pavilion Parking Garage and painted by Alexander Austin, the third was done by Donald Ross and is on the Foxx Equipment building. A fourth can be seen on the Fan Express bus and was created by ARCY.
Daniels is a KC native who is an artist and youth mentor. He began painting murals in 2013 when he was given his first chance to lead a group of young artists through their first community based mural project. His work often depicts overlapping faces, words and characters, which are a visual reference of all the people he's talked to and shared spaces with over time. His work has been featured at ARTSKC, LIVE KC, Urbana KC, Art in the Loop and The KC Streetcar.