Last year, Fort Wayne artist Theoplis Smith III, the owner of Phresh Laundry, painted a portrait of Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who was recently nominated to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President-elect Joe Biden. Fudge is currently the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 11 District, which runs from Cleveland to Akron. She’s also a member and past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
As a friend of Smith's, I recently connected with him to discuss this portrait for a national figure and other creative endeavors he's been a part of in a story for Fort Wayne Ink Spot. This story was republished by Input Fort Wayne.
Q: You did beautiful work on your portrait of Rep. Marcia Fudge. Tell us how that project came to be.
I received a call from the Fort Wayne Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and was asked to make a one-of-a-kind piece to be presented to Ms. Fudge while she was in town speaking at the local chapter's Founders Day event last year. My wife is a member of the local chapter, and I was overjoyed to be asked to commission a piece for Ms. Fudge, a former National President of the illustrious sorority.
I feel great knowing that we have someone like her (in national politics) who has a heartbeat for the community, especially the black community, in that position with the new administration. I think she’ll do an amazing job.
Q: Along with your portraiture, you've done several murals in the Fort Wayne area. Tell us about one of your latest mural projects on Pontiac Street.
That project was for Vincent Village*. I was called by John Christensen, the Board Chair at the organization, to paint something on the side of the building, which is also owned by the organization; (something) that represents hope and faith and can bring light to the community. John had also reached out to a few other artists and, initially, I think he wanted us all to paint something. We all got together and decided to collaborate and do one large painting where we’d each do parts of it.
It ended up coming together very well, and the teamwork with the other artists was amazing.
Q: Why do you think murals and other public art are important?
I think it's my responsibility as an artist is to create places where all people can gather and be inspired. I think it helps to revitalize some public spaces, as well.
Q: We've seen so many new murals in Fort Wayne in recent years. Do you see this trend continuing in 2021?
Yes, I believe it is sustainable. Fort Wayne is just getting started, and the artists here have so much more to share.
Q: What else is coming up, and how can people find you online?
I have new art coming soon, and I’m looking to empower and encourage creative people. I am also looking at starting some sort of online gallery, and I want to get more into my Facebook live and Instagram live painting sessions. I have lots of ideas and upcoming art.
People can find me on Instagram and Facebook at @thatlaundry
and online at www.phreshlaundry.com.
*Editors note: Vincent Village, located at 2827 Holton Ave., is a local non-profit that works to alleviate homelessness by providing shelter, care, advocacy, affordable housing, and supportive services for homeless families. The agency owns 35 single-family homes as well as 10 units in Vincent House that are open to homeless families from local emergency shelters and partnering organizations.
This story was originally published in Fort Wayne Ink Spot.