Addonis Parker: Miami Muralist and Restorationist

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OneUnited Mural by Addonis Parker

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By: Treméne Triplett

You might think that a guy who is 6’7” paints large-scale murals because he’s used to seeing the world from a big perspective— but that’s not the case with Miami artist, Addonis Parker. He paints ten-story murals because he wants to create an atmosphere where he’s the ant, and the world around him is much larger—an environment he needed to conquer, he’s said.

And therein lies the irony of Parker, 47, whose artwork beautifies, informs and challenges the aesthetic sensibilities of Miamians and visitors alike across the city. From the written word, to 3D sculptures, to oil paintings and charcoal sketches, Parker is blessed to do it all with brilliant imagery and soul-searching intensity. But you won’t find his work just anywhere.

“I’m very strategic about where I paint murals,” says Parker. “Locations have to have historical relevance. It has to be somewhere where there is a certain energy—a spiritual connection with the community.”

Parker’s murals can be found in legendary neighborhoods like Historic Overtown and Liberty City, both culturally rich and contemporarily relevant, areas that served as homesteads for people of color in Miami from as far back as the 1890s and 1930s, respectively. Parker, a resident of Liberty City since 2001, says he uses his work to bridge communities through understanding and working with other artists.

“Liberty City sounded like freedom to me. It was like a bell going off. Liberty City reminded me of a collection of black ideas or arguments that were always misunderstood, but there was no brotherhood. I saw the power and the potential,” says Parker.

Ribs at Jackson Soul Food
Ribs at Jackson Soul Food

He not only works in these neighborhoods, he also enjoys some of his favorite Miami delights there. Jackson Soul Food, People's Bar-B-Que (which is slated to re-open in the near future) and Little Haiti's Jamaican cuisine at Clive's Cafe top his list of favorite eateries.

Perhaps because Parker became famous in Miami for his art, the city claims him as its own. But, Parker is actually an Ohio native, who moved to Central Florida as an adolescent, then after four colleges in four years, and a host of community service positions, he set his sights on Miami.

“In middle and high school, on Valentine’s Day, I would rack up,” said Parker regarding his custom greeting cards. “I would write my poetry. People would give me $5-$8 per card. Each one was different. A girl cried over her card. I knew that day, that I could write.”

Many apprentices formalize their skills in college, not Parker. He challenged the status quo, and credits his greatest art teacher as God, and a friend from high school days.

“If you look at everything, you’re looking at it from a European perspective,” he told his art professor at Georgia College State University. “You want me to embrace another culture, which is fine. That’s the learning process. But, how do I find myself in this?”

Parker drew on the lessons taught to him by then fellow clothing painter and fine artist, Hassan Patterson, which motivated him to move from charcoal and colored pencil drawings to painting. He says that God gave him the ability to envision a piece of his art completed before it’s actually done. Subsequent college professors taught him the business side of art and lessons on manhood.

Art by Addonis Parker
Art by Addonis Parker

Parker brought this unlikely combination of experiences to his art expression in Miami. He is well-known for his restoration mural work, including that of Dr. Martin Luther King in Liberty City and Everyday Life murals in Overtown created by legendary Miami artist Purvis Young. Parker has also gained international notoriety for his original works. Among them, his 2015 mural, Thunder and Enlightening, is featured on the façade of OneUnited Bank, the nation’s largest black-owned bank. That community initiative enabled Parker to work with Liberty City youth to create the mural's striking content. If you open an account at OneUnited, you can choose a bank card that features Parker’s beautifully Afro-centric artwork.

“The work he does is very good,” said Tamar McLean, professional photographer who photographs Parker’s work for various projects. “The OneUnited Bank mural—it shows a lot—from days of slavery to what’s going on right now.” McLean predicts big things for Addonis Parker. “I’m pretty sure he will do well in the future. I really hope his work will go into the Pérez Art Museum Miami.”

While an in-demand working artist, Parker is also community-conscious. He maintains Art Forever Miami, Inc., a non-profit located in Liberty City, where he mentors youth to create socially significant, culturally relevant artwork. 

When asked about his future endeavors, Parker is not quite so concerned. He’s more interested in spending time with his children. “Everything I wanted, God gave to me. I am free. I don’t have to hide behind the shroud of intellectual nonsense. I can be myself. I can be the black man I was looking for. I don’t work for anybody. I give and feed to the poor. I minister to the rich.”

With all that has been accomplished by Parker, in addition to his Miami Art Forever Studio, art lovers are anticipating his new gallery opening in Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk area on January 1, 2020.

Read More:

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