Gwinnett college student chosen to create ‘Candyman’ mural

Howard University’s Kendall Robinson is one of six HBCU students picked for the project.

Long before Kendall Robinson was hand-picked a few weeks ago to interpret the social impact and artistry prevalent in the film “Candyman,” word of her work was already circulating among collectors and children’s authors across the country.

It was inspiring. Joyful. And vibrant.

There were no posts soliciting applications from fellow art students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“It was one of those things where my name was in the room but my feet weren’t,” Robinson remembered recently.

When she was asked to submit her resume and portfolio to Universal Pictures and its partners, Robinson didn’t hesitate.

That was in late July. A week or so later, she learned she and five other HBCU art students had been selected from more than 100 HBCU campuses across the country.

“I was extremely excited because I knew how big the movie was going to be,” Robinson said. “I felt extremely blessed and grateful for the opportunity.”

For Robinson, who grew up in Suwanee, it was more confirmation that she was walking in her purpose.

Credit: Rachel Nwosu

Credit: Rachel Nwosu

When she headed to Howard after graduating from Greater Atlanta Christian School in 2018, the 20-year-old had plans of becoming a medical doctor.

She was in a biology lab studying bacteria early one morning when she realized medicine wasn’t her passion. Art was.

That isn’t to say medicine didn’t make sense. Robinson’s aptitude for not only discerning social issues but solving them was apparent to anyone who knew her.

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Her efforts, inspired by an encounter with an Atlanta homeless man, were featured in this newspaper in 2016 and commended by both Gov. Brian Kemp and former President Barack Obama.

Evenso, she’d been telling anyone who asked that she wanted to be an artist since, well, second grade.

“I knew that I wanted to create, make art, spend time in art museums and that my heart was being called to whatever that entailed,” she said. “I had to make that leap of faith.”

Robinson was in the middle of her sophomore year at Howard when she remembered where her passion lay and changed her major to art.

Now she had eight days to complete a 5-by-6-foot painting that would depict how Black art is Black power.

Because the “Candyman” storyline centers around visual artist Anthony McCoy, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Universal Pictures partnered with Monkeypaw Productions and HBCU Buzz, the leading source of HBCU news, sports and entertainment, for a Candyman HBCU Artist Showcase to tell a different side of the “Candyman” story.

“Projects like this are my favorite because not only are we bringing opportunities to the HBCU community, we have the chance to get creative and highlight how talented Black college students truly are,” said HBCU Buzz Founder and CEO Luke A. Lawal Jr. “I promise you the gifts and abilities being cultivated on these campuses will blow your mind. When I founded HBCU Buzz, it was to share with the world how special HBCU students are. We are about to celebrate 10 years and still, they never cease to amaze me. Kendall is a prime example.”

Robinson, who has yet to see the new “Candyman,” which opened in theaters August 27, found inspiration in the 1992 version of the film.

Specifically, she said, the bees gave her painting life.

“Bees were prevalent throughout the film so it just made sense to incorporate them,” Robinson said. “Everything in the mural has meaning. Nothing is there by accident.”

The beehive, for instance, represents community, shared experiences, the boxes that society puts Black people in, the boxes that we put ourselves, she said. The multi-layered portrait of the woman at the center of the painting represents the different faces or personas Black people have to put on to maneuver through the world. And the bees represent achievements of the Black community, their contributions to society and, she said, members of our village that motivate us and keep us grounded.

Robinson titled the mural, located at Howard’s Mordecai Wyatt Johnson Administration Building, “Metamorphosis.”

Murals were also created by Chloe Williams at Norfolk State University; April Lacey of Fisk; Donielle Pankey of Tennessee State; Ja’Marcus Willis from Grambling State; and Haley Wilson of Florida A&M.

“Candyman,” written and directed by Nia DaCosta, is the sequel to the 1992 horror classic of the same name. The story line picks up in Chicago’s now bulldozed Cabrini Green housing projects where McCoy, a struggling artist, starts to lose his grip on reality after uncovering the story of Candyman. As legend has it, if someone says his name in a mirror five times, Candyman will appear and kill whoever summoned him.

Robinson hopes to get out to see “Candyman” soon and is looking forward to seeing what good things come from her experience with “Candyman.”

“Whether it opens other doors or serves to inspire others I don’t know,” she said, “but if something is to happen I believe it’s already in the works.”

She added: “If anyone is reading this and looking for a sign to pursue their creative passion, this is that sign. I’m a firm believer that if you’re moving in your passion you will never be unsuccessful. Go out and do what you were placed on this earth to do.”