EAST LANSING, Mich. —Artist and multidisciplinary creative Ndubisi Okoye will begin painting “First Class,” a mural honoring the legacy of legendary civil rights leader Dr. Robert L. Green, in downtown East Lansing next week.
Okoye is a Michigan-based artist operating out of Detroit, Mich. His artworks tell stories in vibrant colors, through a creative combination of symbolism and realism. With his “First Class” mural, Okoye wanted to depict the long struggle for civil rights for Dr. Green, who bravely fought against housing discrimination in East Lansing, spurring local advocacy and ultimately leading to the adoption of a fair housing ordinance by the East Lansing City Council on April 8, 1968. In addition to the mural featuring a portrait of Dr. Green, it will also feature Dr. Green’s historic East Lansing home; a tennis ball, referring to his work with Arthur Ashe in South Africa to help end apartheid; and a football, relating to his time working with athletes throughout the Big Ten and advocating for justice in coaching recruiting practices. The mural will also include a Spartan logo, referring to Dr. Green’s profound legacy at Michigan State University as an advocate, esteemed alum, professor and MSU’s first Black dean; and a “313,” which is Detroit’s area code, where Dr. Green was born and worked to make improvements to the local school system.
“I hope that this mural brings attention and awareness to the barriers Dr. Green broke, how he transformed the City of East Lansing and how we (Black and Brown folks) benefit from the work he's done,” said Okoye. “He's one of the many icons whose shoulders I stand on. My hope is to give him the honor and respect he deserves with this mural!”
Okoye graduated from College for Creative Studies in Detroit in 2015 with a B.F.A. in Advertising Design. Before graduating, he began his career working as an art director for many advertising agencies in Detroit. His client roster includes General Motors, Chevrolet and Chrysler. Before accepting his first role in the industry, Okoye began working independently as a multidisciplinary creative. Since then, he's been simultaneously specializing in vibrant mural painting, custom hand lettering and thought-provoking illustrations. These clients include Universal Music Group, Pepsi, Netflix, Warner Bros, Adobe and HGTV. He is now a senior art director and continues to find ways to blend and excel in every design discipline he chooses.
Okoye’s “First Class” mural will measure 23 feet wide by 23 feet tall at completion and was commissioned by the East Lansing Arts Commission and selected by the East Lansing Art Selection Panel following a Request for Proposals that garnered 46 artist submissions for a downtown East Lansing mural highlighting East Lansing’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The mural is tentatively planned to be painted over the course of one week, beginning Monday, May 16, above the entrance/exit for the Albert Avenue Garage, 188 Albert Ave., with plans to have it completed by the culmination of the East Lansing Art Festival weekend, which is May 21-22. The mural schedule will be dependent on weather. This mural project is being funded by the Percent for Art program’s Public Art Fund.
East Lansing’s Percent for Art program (Ordinance No. 1339) requires developers to commit one percent of their project’s cost (with a $25,000 cap) to public art, through the installation of a piece of public art within their project, the donation of a piece of public art to the City of East Lansing or through a payment to the City’s Public Art Fund for future commissions of public art.