In one black-and-white image, a teenager in a hoodie stands on a field, hand outstretched, gripping a football. In another picture, seven students lie in the grass, eyes closed, using their bodies to spell out the initials “K” and “C.”
Another image features torn up chunks of asphalt. A poster board sign sits atop the jagged pieces of street, reading: “Justice 4 K.C.! Stop the violence.”
Nine months after Kydaryune Curry was gunned down on a northeast Charlotte street over an act of perceived disrespect, 40 of his schoolmates at Charlotte United Christian Academy have channeled their pain and loss into works of art.
The result is “The Justice Project For KC,” an art exhibit that opened last week at the Mint Museum on Randolph Road and runs through May.
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The project combines memories of the teen known as K.C. and the things he loved, with a strong message about the effects of gun violence.
And teachers hope it will also help his loved ones heal.
“Some of (the art) is more literal, and some is more symbolic,” said Christi Smith, who teaches art at Charlotte United and called K.C. one of her favorite students.
She said one reason she encouraged students to embark on the project last September was to help them work out complex feelings of loss.
“It’s been good for them to creatively work through their loss. It’s a way to unconsciously search through or force yourself to look through things that, most times, humans would be tempted to repress,” she said.
K.C. was a popular student at Charlotte United – a football star who befriended people from diverse backgrounds. He loved cars and dreamed of studying automotive technology, his mom said. He hoped one day to work on drag racers.
He was beaten then shot to death because he wouldn’t tell another teenager his name, police say.
The act of perceived disrespect happened in front of a girl in the Bradfield Farms subdivision in northeast Charlotte. On Sept. 15, a day after the confrontation, police say five teens mobilized to fight Curry.
One boy brought a gun and Curry was shot, bleeding to death along the same quiet street where neighbors frequently saw him tinkering with his souped-up BMW.
Police say Curry didn’t know the people accused of killing him. All five have been charged with first-degree murder.
News of the Sunday evening shooting rippled throughout K.C.’s school the next day. “I couldn’t really believe it at first. I thought it was just a rumor going around,” said Sarah Fanelty, a 16-year-old sophomore at Charlotte United. “When it finally hit me I cried for four hours.”
Students held a prayer vigil, and a memorial at the school drew 150 people, but Curry’s death still stung.
“All of our photography students and I just spent a lot of time talking about the loss,” Smith said. “We decided at that point that we would develop an idea to honor him.”
Sarah was part of a group that made “Stop the Violence” signs and posters, then engaged in a mock protest that was photographed in Matthews.
“We didn’t just sit around and cry about it,” she said. “We also tried to make a difference.”
K.C.’s mom, Benita Turner, celebrated her first Mother’s Day since her son died on Sunday. She said that, for her, the exhibit isn’t just about healing.
“It showed me how much people still care for him – just how much they still thought about him, just how much he meant to all of them, just how much of an impact he had on all of them,” she said.
“It was a proud mama event.”