LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sometimes it takes a lifetime to find your passion. Jaylin Stewart discovered hers before she could tie her shoes.

“When I was in the first grade, they put me in the fifth grade art club so I had a feeling I was pretty good,” Stewart said. 

What You Need To Know

  • Jaylin Stewart is a self-taught artist from West Louisville 

  • She known for her portraits memorializing lives lost to gun violence 

  • Stewart was named the Louisville Visual Art’s Artist Catalyst Program recipient 

  • She will work and learn with Mural Arts Institute Philadelphia and receive a $15,000 stipend to create a large-scale mural

The self-taught artist said art is in her blood. Many of her relatives are also creators in the beauty industry, crafting and art worlds. 

Photo of Jaylin’s painting of Breonna Taylor projected on Metro Hall. It is titled “Say Her Name, See Her Face.” (Jaylin Stewart)

Stewart is known for her portraits of victims of gun violence which she uses to memorialize their lives. Five years ago, she started covering Louisville with murals hoping to spark conversations about social justice issues, especially gun violence. 

“I was painting portraits of victims of violence, kind of really just coping with what I've dealt with in my life and in my neighborhood and what the city really states, this country are dealing with,” Stewart said. 

Stewart has left her mark on sidewalks, inside schools, and even on Louisville Metro Hall. 

Her passion for public art stood out on her application for Louisville Visual Art’s Artist Catalyst Program recipient. 

She recently was named the inaugural recipient of the program. 

“I was super honored and very proud of myself,” Stewart said. “I think this is one of the best things I've done in a long time, just the fact that I get to be around other artists, other being people who think like me.”

As a recipient, Stewart will spend the next year learning and working with the Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program. 

She will participate in the PACE (Public Art and Civic Engagement) Incubator for a series of workshops to develop her skills in socially engaged public art, attend the Mural Arts Institute Symposia and other events. Then with her team at Louisville Visual Art, she will create a large-scale mural somewhere in Louisville. 

“I really want to pick a place where there are not a lot of murals, but also it’s accessible to everyone not just West Louisville, really just trying to help break that nice street divide, that east and west thing,” Stewart said.

She will receive a $15,000 stipend and additional funds for materials. 

“Money like that is life changing to a young Black artist from West Lou still living in underserved communities. That's great. I can do a lot of different things. I can invest. I can do things that I want to do with my career and it can help me start other projects,” Stewart said.

With funding out of the way, all that’s left to decide is what to create — and she’s letting the community decide what she does with the paint brush.

“I want to involve that community engagement tool to kind of put their input in to see what they would like to see. The end goal is an amazing mural," she said.

Stewart plans to use surveys and workshops to get that feedback from the community.