LYNCHBURG — The mural seemed to appear overnight.
Against sheets of corrugated metal, the profile of a woman spilled across a garage door in waves of blues, browns and yellows. Like a mirage, she seemed dreamlike against the flaking metal of the building — paint bleeding down onto the asphalt, an unexpected visitor brightening an industrial city block off Fort Avenue.
“I’ve never found a Black girl on a wall before,” Christina Davis said. Not in Lynchburg.
“A Black woman feeling beautiful is an important visual to have,” she said. “That’s what public art is for — starting a conversation.”
Although Davis’ mural, “Make Waves,” was the product of four days of nonstop work in June and has garnered widespread community interest, she has been a part of the Lynchburg hustle for years.
Determined to cement herself in the Hill City art scene since she started taking art classes in elementary school, Davis, 28, has built her following from the ground up.
What began with teaching volunteer art classes at the YMCA and at the Academy Center of the Arts has blossomed into a career as an art teacher at Blue Ridge Montessori School in Forest, along with gigs teaching online and her own face-painting business, Pick and Paint.
Davis’ new mural in midtown largely was in response to the Black Lives Matter protests happening in recent weeks, with Lynchburg residents joining a national movement for racial justice and accountability.
Davis said the image was also inspired by the Black Girl Magic movement — a concept born to celebrate the beauty, power and resilience of Black women.
With a beautiful Black woman more than 10 feet tall plastered on the side of Hill City Hardwood at 1208 Thurman Ave., Davis said she wants to give voice to a different kind of story about Black women in the city.
“I think it’s long overdue,” said Michelline Hall, a photographer and co-owner of Blackwater Branding in Lynchburg. Hall has collaborated with Davis on projects for more than seven years and admires how her colleague has expanded her following.
“She didn’t come out of nowhere,” Hall said. “She’s been here and has been consistent.”
Hall said seeing diversity reflected in public art is vital, especially as works expand from only certain sections of town. Though areas of downtown have been designated Lynchburg’s “arts district,” with clusters of galleries and shops along the riverfront, Davis and Hall want to see public art spread.
“It’s full of energy that is going to make you smile,” Hall said of the “Make Waves” mural. “It’s definitely going to make you stop. It’s a magical, whimsical piece in a drab, industrial part of the town.
“It’s important — reflecting the people who live in those neighborhoods and those communities.”
Growing up in Lynchburg, Davis said, she had to navigate a lot of racism to get to where she is, but she doesn’t want the story that emerges from her art to be “a sad one.”
“A lot of us are putting it all into this city,” Davis said. “Black Girl Magic was something so important to us growing up. It’s why we have such a strong hustle. We’re filling gaps we see in our community.”
An E.C. Glass High School graduate, Davis said being an artist requires an entrepreneurial spirit, and she drives around Virginia to partner with different artists.
“Make Waves” was her first big project in more than two years since the birth of her daughter, Amara. She said her daughter was thrilled by the project — even more thrilled to watch her mother paint a woman “that looks like herself.” She said these big, positive images will help broaden horizons for Amara and other girls around the city.
Davis said she has returned to the art scene with a vengeance since Amara’s birth, with new murals planned throughout the summer and her work currently displayed at the Academy downtown and at Bean Tree Café in Cornerstone.
“We are a part of Lynchburg. We live here. We are around the corner,” she said. “We want to help change the conversation a little bit, and a great start is a beautiful woman.”