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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 10-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, whose artwork beautifies, informs and challenges the aesthetic sensibilities of locals and visitors alike across the destination. From the written word to 3D sculptures, oil paintings and charcoal sketches, Parker does 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 historically Black neighborhoods such as Historic Overtown and Liberty City, culturally rich and contemporarily relevant areas that served as centers 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. He relocated his Art Forever Studio to 3275 NW 79th Street (Second Floor) in Liberty City in 2022.

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, in Historic Overtown, 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. 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, but not Parker. He challenged the status quo.

“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 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 the Dr. Martin Luther King mural in Liberty City and the Everyday Life murals in Overtown created by legendary Miami artist Purvis Young. Parker has also gained international recognition for his original works. 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, a 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.”

Adding to his already impressive “street cred,” Addonis Parker was the 2019 Art of Black Miami MIA Magazine Cover Competition winner. But Parker has a wider perspective. “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 to and feed the poor. I minister to the rich.”

Learn more about Art of Black Miami.

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