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Emily Ding: Traveling Mural Artist Empowering Girls Everywhere

The voice of female artists throughout history is strong but often hidden. There is no denying how you feel when you see one of Frida’s surrealist paintings. You can feel her energy, her passion and her urgency to share her reality and story. We all have a story to tell, it’s how we tell it that will impact others around us. Personally, I feel something deep inside stir like a wildfire when I see the true magic of a person coming out onto their medium. One medium that has always fascinated me is mural art.

I love to stare at a mural and wonder how the artist was able to so carefully design such a massive piece on the side of a building. In Flint there are giant murals going up on the walls that are bringing this incredible breath of fresh air to the streets of downtown. The Flint Public Art Project has a goal of bringing 100 murals to Flint by 2020 with a plan to enhance the beauty and energy of the city.

The murals are vibrant, massive and created from artists all over the world. I was recently at Cafe Rhema and heard there was a female mural artist working over on Second Street. I turned to my fiance and he laughed and said, “Alright let’s go get your camera and come back downtown.” He knew I had to meet a female mural artist and capture her at work.

I rushed home, grabbed my camera and drove back downtown. I was nervous as hell trying to think of how I was going to approach this stranger in the middle of her work. I parked on a side street, and headed to the alley way. When I turned the corner I saw a female up high on a lift spray painting the wall in Brush Alley.

I was blown away.

She smiled at me, made her way down and started to talk to me.

Emily Ding is an artist originally from Houston, Texas. Her inspiration is usually expressed in murals in the form of animals, but for Flint she decided to paint two beautiful children holding sunflowers. The mural is filled with warm colors highlighted by streaks of rich blues, vibrant greens and purples. Beneath the layers of colors are the most mysterious and playful eyes of a boy and a girl smiling at you.

Their eyes are filled with hope and the innocence of childhood.

Emily told me, “[Growing up] I took a lot of weekend art classes with private teachers where we’d draw vases and fruit. I had a lot of art teachers throughout my life. In college, I didn't go there for art, I studied business then I switched to social work and then I dropped out to pursue art full time. I just found out about spray paint and I totally loved it.”

“Typically I paint animals and plant life, sometimes portraits. When I came through Flint I was asked if I wanted to paint the Ennis Center for Children. It's like an art school and it’s an after school program. Foster kids go there for art therapy, they get to do activities there and they helped me with the bottom half. I chose characters that would represent the kids and the positivity of the program.

“There are a lot of instances where people don't think you’re the one painting it. Even if you’re wearing the mask and have the spray paint. There could be a man standing next to me, a friend, another artist, or a stranger and someone will walk up and say 'Hey man! Nice painting!' And I am standing right here... covered in paint! I don't think it’s that frustrating, because usually the guy next to me will say, ‘Hey, no! It’s Emily’s work! I think it’s kind of empowering too. If there is a little girl around she gets to see that a woman, a female is doing this!”

Emily is a part of the movement transforming the voice of today’s modern female artist.

She travels all over the world showing little girls and women that there is no limit to the art forms we master. There is no limit to the size, style or medium. Art can transform a city like Flint, but it can also change the minds, thoughts and future of it’s viewer. Words and art have power, what will you use your medium to change?

To see more of Emily's work check out her Instagram here!

Photographed and Written by: Jenifer Veloso

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