If You Build It

A Blaze of Glory celebrates Sugar Hill as both a site of interdisciplinary artistic success and intersection between different cultural communities. Deriving from the concept of ‘In Loving Memory’ murals used mainly by the Latino community to pay tribute to their loved ones, the work portrays great African American female writers of the early 20th century, many of whom took up residence in this famed neighborhood.

By tapping into an expansive history of artistic production, Ayala also uses Emory Douglas’ use of strong bold lines and the improvisations of jazz music as important references for the piece. Integrating all of these components into a visually engaging artwork, Ayala states, “I want to create a cohesive homage to the struggles of people of color and their ability to defeat oppression through the use of their thoughts and actions.” This work corresponds to the artist’s larger body of work, which often engages with broad communities by functioning not only as a means of communication, but also as and social record.

Preferring to use the brush rather than the spray can, this elegant and vibrant mural emphasizes the value of the community within the urban landscape. In this action of valorizing the diverse viewpoints of the neighborhood, A Blaze of Glory conveys the notion that “Harlem’s essence remains in its people who change and are changed by the neighborhood.”