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7 Questions with….Mural Fest Artist and Beaumont native turned LA Entrepreneur, Henry Smith

A familiar face is participating in Mural Fest this year — Beaumont native Henry Smith, who is now thriving as an artist and muralist in Los Angeles.

Smith, 40, graduated from Central High School where he first took up art and played sports. He then went off to McNeese State University in Lake Charles, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Visual arts.

Smith taught art at Martin Luther King Middle School for about five years before he moved to Los Angeles. Now he not only works as an artist but as a full-time entrepreneur with his fashion brand CHIDI, which is “grounded in art, truth and black culture.”

The increased exposure to art in LA — from graffiti downtown to the walls of the beach where he also likes to paint — has had a huge influence on Smith’s art.

And he brought that style back to his hometown last week with a new mural on the wall outside the Barbers Trade School downtown. The black and white features the silhouette profiles of Black men with different hairstyles.

Q: huhow long did you live in Beaumont, and what memories stick out?

A: I’ve been living in Beaumont pretty much all of my life — up until I was about 29 or 30. But I went off to college, of course, came right back to Beaumont, and left at age 35. The memories that stand out the most to me are playing football in the Beaumont bowls when I was a kid, watching a lot of the great athletes that came out of Beaumont, the family-oriented community that everybody showed. Everybody knew everybody in Beaumont.

Q: Let’s go back to the start. When did you begin painting murals, and what originally inspired you to pursue that path?

A: I really started painting murals when I was in Houston. A guy reached out to me and wanted me to do a Versace mural at his house. He was a huge fan of Versace, and that was my first mural in Houston. Ever since then, I was inspired to do murals. I moved to LA, I saw the beautiful work on the buildings and saw some of the artists there and connected with them. I’ve been doing mural work and paintings since.

Q: Can you talk about the mural you are working on in Beaumont? Why did you decide on this particular image?

A: One of the reasons I chose this particular image, the building is a barbershop, of course, and I wanted to depict different hairstyles and different personalities that come inside the barber shops. You never know who is going to walk inside the barber shop, and you don’t know what type of conversation you are going to have — it is always going to be something different when someone walks inside the barbershop. I want to definitely depict the different African-American hairstyles, definitely show Black unity and show that, ‘Hey, Black people in the barber shop is always different types of conversations.’ I wanted this to show that and exemplify that in every way possible without showing any details in the faces. I wanted people to look at it and just kind of gather their own insight of what these faces would probably be talking about inside of the barber shop and bringing togetherness.

Q: What is the greatest lesson you have learned as an artist

A: Never give up on yourself and continue to express yourself as much as possible through your work. You never know who is going to like your work or who is going to gravitate to it. So, that’s the greatest lesson — just to continue to express yourself no matter who likes it and doesn’t like it. And perseverance, that is a key word, just preserving through the hard times as a starving artist when I first started out. Perseverance was one of the greatest lessons I learned.

Q: What is your recommendation for artists who are starting to pursue their passion?

A: I would just tell you to stick with it. Mingle with other artists. Learn from other artists. It is always good to do your research. Learn from different styles and continue to grow, grow as an artist as much as possible. That would be my advice to any young artist that is trying to be in this field, is to learn from every artist possible, and to continue to keep pushing forward.

Q: Outside of painting, what do you also enjoy?

A: I enjoy writing poetry. I enjoy, working out, of course. I enjoy going to the beach, because I am living in LA, so I love the beach. And, I love giving back to kids, I love working with the youth.

Q: What do you wish people understood better about what you do?

A: I wish they understood that us as artists, we don’t get a lot of respect in our field. I really wish that people saw and respected the work that artists do. There is a lot of work that goes into it. A lot of time people want you to do work for a little bit of nothing. They will ask them to paint something for them and they will say, you know, can I do it for a little bit of money. So, my biggest thing is to just be appreciated. Just basically, respecting the craft.

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