GSU Student Among Artists at HBCUs Who Created Murals Interpreting Themes in Candyman Film

GRAMBLING, La. – Ja’Marcus Willis, a junior visual and performing arts major at Grambling State University (GSU), is among student artists at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who brought film to life through art.

HBCU Buzz, a multi-media company, teamed up with Universal Pictures and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions for the Candyman HBCU Artist Showcase. Six student artists at HBCUs around the country were selected to interpret the social impact and artistry in the film by creating murals.

The recently released movie is a sequel to the 1992 horror classic. It featured the bee-infested and hook brandishing Candyman character, who frightened movie goers and illustrated the treatment of marginalized people in inner city Chicago.

The sequel is again set in Chicago – this time at the location of the original Cabrini Green housing projects now gentrified. An unsuspecting artist learns the sad and unjust story of urban legend Candyman and wants to bring the story to life through his art. However, it may prove to be a momentous mistake. The film touches on the present day social climate and injustices.

Willis’ artwork, titled “Candyman Vision Perspective”, is on display at the campus bookstore. He describes it as “a bee’s reflection of its eyes inside the eyes that show symbolism and descriptions of what the movie is overall about and consists of.”

Willis, of Springhill, La., said he got interested in art at a young age.

“It has always been a part of my life and was first a hobby but now it’s my best passion,” he said. “I want to make it a career somehow.”

Willis said he enjoys the creativity and uniqueness of being an artist and feels thankful and blessed for his gift.

Rodrecas L. Davis, head of the GSU Department of Visual & Performing Arts, said Willis is “heavily inspired by graphic design, and street art aesthetics.”

“There’s an immediacy in his work that was perfect for the emotional content of this fil,” Davis said. “The opportunity, which required that students work within the confines of a deadline, collaborate remotely, and synthesize the broader concerns of a topic into a singular image – all things that we push for our majors to experience.”

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit