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Legendary Syracuse Firsts Mural to take shape downtown. Curator, Artist: Four basketball players who embody so much more

Legends Syracuse Firsts blank canvas
Jonas Never
This is a conceptual rendering of what the Legends Syracuse First Mural will look like.

A massive, six story high mural is about to be painted on the side of a building in Downtown Syracuse. We stopped by to meet the nationally renowned artist who will be here for about a month. It all began when Curator Frank Malfitano wanted to honor “Legendary Syracuse Firsts.” Four basketball players who became known for all they endured and how they persevered to become legends of the game, despite facing racism, antisemitism, sexism, sexual child abuse and homophobia.

“We’ve had a lot of people like Dolph Schayes and Earl Lloyd, Manny Breland and Breanna Stewart, the four stars of the mural who are going to honored in the mural.  They have really put their lives on the line to make this a better country and that an important part of our history that we can’t lose and can’t forget about.  This really isn’t a basketball mural as some people have suggested.  Obviously, they’re all great basketball players and Hall of Famers and legends of the game.  But, this is really about what they did off the court as well as on the court.”  

An exterior wall has been painted white to create the blank canvas for 39 year-old Artist Jonas Never of Santa Monica, California. He feels the mural will open up a dialogue for necessary discussions both past and present.

“A history lesson in Syracuse sports and racial trailblazers and there’s all sorts of things that really wouldn’t be discussed otherwise… and I think a lot of people are unaware of.  In many ways it’s a really cool thing to be a part of.  It’s powerful, I mean, we started on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death.  I was watching the marchers going up and down the street yesterday.  And it was cool seeing that there’s still stuff going on for racial justice and, you know, Frank (Malfitano) being courageous enough to get this mural going is a big part of that.”    

He’s begun sketching out the mural. It will be situated on the side of the east facing wall of the Monroe Building at 333 East Washingston Street. Never’s goal is to have it finished in time for the opening of Syracuse Jazz Fest on June 23rd.

Legends Syracuse Firsts blank wall Jonas Never
John Smith / WAER News
Mural Artist Jonas Never stands before the wall he will paint within a month or so.