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GREENWOOD Dist.–Tulsa Artist Arthur Haywood doesn’t create mural installations and book cover illustrations just for the fun of it. His passion for inspiring children to read informs every stroke of his brush.
From installing murals at public schools in France and Tulsa, to illustrating books for authors around the country, Haywood has used the power of the paintbrush to illuminate the joy of reading for kids who might not otherwise seek it out.
Now, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship participant is a winner of the 40th annual international Illustrators of the Future contest. Acclaimed science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard founded Writers of the Future in 1983. By 1988, Illustrators of the Future was born.
“I just felt so gratified for that recognition and that honor to be selected as an Illustrator of the Future. It took me back to all the times I was unsure about my portfolio. When I won, I thought maybe this is really possible,” Haywood told The Black Wall Street Times.
As a winner, Haywood will be flown out to Hollywood in April 2024 to network with and receive mentorship from experts in the field.
Haywood’s art will also be published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 40.
“I feel really gratified to be connected with that larger community of other likeminded artists so we can move toward this idea of creating a brighter future together,” Haywood said.
Tulsa Artist takes talent to Hollywood
For Arthur Haywood, reading has always been fundamental. Growing up in Philadelphia, his father ran reading camps as a state senator, and his mother was president of their local school board.
In middle school he became a public graffiti artist and began to network with older, more experienced artists to hone his craft.
Yet he soon realized many of his peers were never exposed to the kinds of art found in museums that he was blessed to experience.
“But mural art can make art accessible to everyone in the community and see themselves reflected in a public way,” Haywood said.
Thus, he began a career that would take him from installing murals in his hometown to across the ocean. In 2019, Haywood installed murals in a French youth center as part of a Paris residency program.
By the end of 2020, he decided to apply for a program with Tulsa Artist Fellowship.
After joining the program, he began contributing to the resurgence of north Tulsa by conducting a survey to determine which schools in Tulsa wanted murals on their campuses. He eventually installed mural installations at Central High School’s dance studio, among other schools.
Now, as a prestigious winner of the Illustrators of the Future award, Haywood wants to focus on book cover installations.
“Growing up, I was a young person who loved reading, but the reason I picked up Harry Potter was because of the cover. It was like a trailer. Being able to capture the story on book covers has been my dream for a long time,” Haywood told The Black Wall St. Times.
He created book cover installations for local poet Phetote Mshairi’s “An Old Fart and A Thousand Sentiments.”
He also created an installation for Space and Time Magazine.
Turning the tide on low reading scores through art
Notably, reading scores across the nation have fallen since the pandemic, with Black students facing some of the worst disparities.
In Oklahoma, a recent report card released by the Ryan Walters-controlled State Department of Education shows that a rise in chronic absenteeism has coincided with a decline in test scores.
What many see as a problem, Tulsa artist Arthur Haywood sees as an opportunity to illuminate the minds of young people. He believes if students find a connection that inspires them to learn, it won’t feel like a chore.
For those who want to follow in his footsteps, Haywood has a piece of advice.
“Spend as much time as you can in a healthy way on developing the skills that you need in order to be able to complete the art you want to create. Then apply those skills towards a message that connects with you. Then share that body of work message with a community that you believe will be able to connect with it,” Haywood said.
“In my experience when communities connect they can support it. At the end of the day, bet on yourself. Believe in the vision that you have.”