In July, Jackson native and artist Christopher Windfield finished his Ellis Avenue mural, “Young King,” which faces New Horizon Church. Photo by Delreco Harris
Christopher Windfield says he grew up in some of the worst neighborhoods of Jackson. He grew accustomed to having family and friends involved in street activities. However, those same people were the ones who encouraged him to invest in himself and his art as a child, he says now.
"Man, you can draw. Man, you're an artist. If you keep doing this, you don't have to turn out like us," they would say to Windfield. "You don't have to end up talking to me through a glass in a prison."
The community's encouragement inspired Windfield to give back to young people and inspire them with his first mural. Completed in July, Windfield's "Young King," sits at 1770 Ellis Ave. and faces his church, New Horizon. The mural depicts a Black boy, modeled after Windfield's cousin's son, with a crown on his head looking toward the sky.
On the left of the boy are the words, "You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky. Be optimistic."
"When I think of the horizon, I think of the future and of looking forward," Windfield says. "The youth is going to be our future. They're going to be our next mayors, doctors, presidents, the next thing. So if we want to build a better future or be able to look toward the horizon, we got to focus on the youth, and living in a city that's about 90% Black, we definitely got to focus on the Black youth."
Windfield says people are often surprised he became an artist because of some of the choices he made as a child as well as where he grew up.
Standing at 6'8," the Black former basketball star says he doesn't fit most people's idea of what an artist looks like.
The Jackson native graduated with an associate degree from Hinds Community College in drafting and design before earning his bachelor's degree in graphic design from Jackson State University in 2006. He later went on to earn his master's degree in web design and new media in 2014. For 20 years, Windfield has created paintings, three short documentary films, and a graphic novel, "Killers in Disguise."
The pandemic has given Windfield more time to create. He's currently working on a new film about civil-rights activist George Raymond Jr. and a comic book inspired by a massacre that devastated a predominantly Black town.
His focus on race isn't new. His three award-winning films, "30th of May," "Respect Our Black Dollars" and "70 Years of Blackness," all focus on social-justice issues within the Black community.
Race being the subject of his art is unavoidable, he says.
"If I wasn't born in Jackson, Miss., I probably wouldn't tackle race as much," he says. "There's a lot of racial tension. That's the environment that molded me. I feel like it's something that needs to be told."
Windfield says that although the Jackson community has been mostly complimentary of his art, he worries that outside of Mississippi, Black artists don't receive the recognition they deserve. Or worse, they get boxed in as being "too Black" or militant when Black people are the subject of their artwork.
Windfield remembers comments about his focus on race in films a few years ago. Once, a white man commented on one of his Facebook posts saying that Windfield only makes "n——— films." But he says the criticism about the subjects of his art have never discouraged him. In fact, he says now is the best time to be a Black artist.
"I remember my art teacher told me back in the day, 'Don't be afraid to ask questions people are afraid to answer and answer questions that people are scared to ask.' That's something I always try to do with my art," he says.
To view Windfield's art, visit cwindfield.com or drawnupfilms.com, or follow him on Instagram at @windfieldart.