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Going Global with Jarrad McKay

We caught up with artist Jarrad McKay after the completion of his latest mural at the corner of St. Claude and Franklin.

Photo: Michael Tucker

We caught up with artist Jarrad McKay after the completion of his latest mural at the corner of St. Claude and Franklin.

Jarrad McKay grew up in New Orleans, and though he's quick to note that his art isn't ‘typical New Orleans’, it's quickly evident he's been inspired by his surroundings. But it's not always been New Orleans – he also spent some time in DC and South Africa, experiences that shaped his work and who he is today — and grew in him both a deep appreciation for home and a drive to grow the reach of his work. He's followed in the tradition of making his own Mardi Gras Indian suit, he's spent years as a tattoo artist, and he's painted plenty of canvases. Now however, his focus is murals – lots of them... everywhere. We met him at his mural produced with the NOLA Mural Project at St. Claude and Franklin.

Jarrad in front of his mural

You’re a New Orleans native - what neighborhood did you grow up in and how did that shape you?

I grew up between uptown and downtown. Just the culture between uptown and downtown influenced me and shaped a lot of the art that I’m making today.

You’ve always been creative in some way - what do you feel has been the most influential medium for you through the years?

I’m using a lot of spray cans lately, being able to have fun with it — doing a lot of murals, large scale work that’s best done with spray cans; so I’m learning to embrace that more and continue to learn how to deal with them in perfecting my craft. That’s definitely brought me to another level.

How did the moves to both DC and Cape Town shape your work?

Moving to DC really upped my game, because I had to keep up more up there with it being fast-paced. In order to keep pace I had to turn up my game; I actually learned a lot and embraced my career there. I was introduced to a lot more of DC. South Africa — it was a game-changer to be able to connect with a different culture and a different type of people… to actually study out there was a big eye-opener and a great experience; it made me value more of what I have and what I do. They make something out of nothing over there; it was very humbling — a great experience.

What does your process look like from beginning to end? Where does your inspiration come from and how does that inspiration evolve into a finished piece?

Before I even do a piece, I envision it, draw it out, map it out color-wise, and then I go in to execute. I definitely map out everything I wanna do. As far as inspiration…my city; being around the neighborhoods and the people in the neighborhoods really influences the work that I do. Just day-to-day. My style of New Orleans art is not traditional, so in order to do that I just people watch and take inspiration from people I encounter on a day-to-day basis. People’s personalities, music, etc. The piece is already finished in my head, so I just need to get that onto the canvas.

Can you tell us about this newest mural?

Yea, I did it with the NOLA Mural Project – they're doing a protest to get mural fees knocked down from $500 to $50. The mural features the quote, “Give people their flowers while they can still smell them.” Meaning it's okay to congratulate and encourage people whenever; don't wait until something bad or good happens to speak positive vibes.

Jarrad in our Heavy Slime collaboration shirt

What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your work?

I wanna get my work out there – do murals worldwide, do different projects in the communities worldwide, and definitely in New Orleans. I really wanna touch people, especially the younger generation, and just basically pursue what it is that I wanna do (and of course make good money from it). I just wanna keep inspiring the girls and the guys and the youth. I wanna share my New Orleans story globally.

Wisdom you’d share with your younger self?

I just wish I knew what I know now back then. You gotta start somewhere though – you gotta crawl before you walk. So I’m not mad about what I did when I was younger; it really shaped me for what’s going on now.

Jarrad's mural at St. Claude and Franklin

What’s next/on the horizon?

More murals, more art pieces, more art shows. Just keep coming with pieces and more ways to inspire. Definitely more murals, though. I wanna take this global.

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