On Tuesday, Nether began shading Freddie Gray’s face.
Working from the widely circulated photo of Gray in a red shirt, the Baltimore street artist lightened the area around Gray’s lips, created crinkles around his eyes. The likeness of the man whose death has sparked protests across the city was taking shape on a tall, white wall, just feet from where police took him into custody.
“It’s Freddie!” a passer-by called out. Nether raised his hand in greeting.
In the mural, Gray is flanked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other marchers from the Civil Rights Movement on one side, and an image of the protesters from the last few weeks on the other. Nether, known for his murals around West Baltimore, said he and Gray’s family wanted to show how the marches in both eras were united in their mission, creating a force against injustice.
“There’s a lot we can conquer with this,” Nether said, adding that he’s never seen the city so united.
He and Gray’s family collaborated on the mural’s content. A family friend of the Grays, Larry Marshall, gave permission for Nether to use an outside wall on a home he owned, which he’d just painted white.
Marshall said he hopes the neighborhood will work to clean up the area around the mural, now littered with trash. “This becomes part of the neighborhood, and everyone will pitch in because everyone knew him,” he said.
Nether expects to work on the mural for at least the rest of this week. As he worked on Tuesday, people paused to snap photos. Baltimore native Terry Henderson, who was visiting from college in Los Angeles, wanted his picture with Nether.
“This is really good, man,” Henderson told Nether.
Other passers-by shouted messages of encouragement.
“Looking good, baby, looking good!” one man yelled. “It’s awesome!” another called.
Each time, Nether responded, “Thank you!”