Victor Sweatt is using art to make a point in the Russell neighborhood. Sweatt calls himself an art activist, and wants to teach young people about important values, the principles of life he gained growing up in the Southwick Projects in Shawnee.
“I have created several programs that combine art and life lessons,” Sweatt said. “These programs address social issues such as underage drinking, self esteem, accountability and homelessness, etc. In my classes I encourage positive dialogue and constructive criticism and promote teamwork and diversity. Through art, I empower children, teenagers and adults by letting them know that their voice is important. I love teaching. I learn so much from the kids.”
In 2018, he was selected, along with four other local artists, to paint murals on buildings in West Louisville as part of a partnership between Louisville Visual Art and the New Directions Housing Corp. Sweatt’s work, completed during the summer, is now a point of pride in Russell. Located at 16th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, it has a banner that reads “Be the energy that you want to attract.”
Sweat explains the significance of the message. “If it’s love you’re seeking then start with loving yourself. Engage all the things that loves encompasses: patience, understanding, selflessness and compassion. I don’t ‘hope’ people take anything from the saying as ‘hope’ is a concept and I solely deal in reality. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. I haven’t found a better teacher than life.”
Sweatt said the 16th Street work has drawn plenty of positive reaction. He’s done several murals in West Louisville, but said this was his first using aerosol cans. He has two other mural projects in the works — one in the Southwick Community Center in Park DuValle, which will chronicle the area’s history, and another in Russell, between 13th and 15th.
Since its completion in September, on nice days, a resident of the building sits under the mural, greeting visitors and handing out Sweatt’s business card. WHAS-TV did a feature on the mural’s creation in September.
Sweatt, who attended Kennedy Elementary, Conway Middle School and Doss High, still lives in Russell and inspires young people to show an interest in art through classes he teaches. He’s an instructor for Louisville Visual Arts’ Children’s Fine Art Classes, and has been involved with several organizations working with kids. In fact, he was featured on the KET Television series, Art to Heart, talking about the importance of exploring the arts and working it into the lives of children.
While Sweatt is a professional artist, he gets involved in other art-related projects. One is WISE – an acronym for “What I See Enterprise.” It sells t-shirts and helps children to “use their creative thoughts or ‘intellectual property’ to lift their socio-economics status.”
Sweatt is also a partner in a business, Competitors Edge, a sports apparel company that supplies youth teams with uniforms and gear. He said his goal with that enterprise is to promote healthier lifestyles. Sweatt is also seeking funding to publish a children’s book entitled Speak Up that advocates the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Today he spends much of his time in his Portland studio at the Louisville Visual Art headquarters, where he does what he knows best, creating art.
“I am a self-taught artist. I was created to create,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in creative processes and exploring the versatility of each medium as I work fluidly in charcoal, watercolor, acrylics and oils.”