“Dee” Hutch’s art career began with a scolding from his Grandma Bessie when he was a toddler. His offense? Drawing on her walls in crayon. It was, he says, his first mural. Now 29, Hutch recently completed a mural highlighting the college and NBA accomplishments of Racine native and former NBA basketball star Caron Butler. The mural, commissioned by Butler, a longtime friend of his, is on the north wall of the gym of the George Bray Neighborhood YMCA, 924 Center St.
The mural is important, “humbling” Hutch says, because while early in his career he often was commissioned to make airbrushed t-shirts honoring people who had been murdered, this gives him a chance to “change the narrative.” He elaborates: “Normally when you see a mural with someone’s face it’s because they aren’t here anymore.” This mural is “of not just someone who has passed.”
Hutch is honored that the mural is next to one of two honoring community leaders that his father, Darren Hutcherson, painted in 2011. One of those two murals was commissioned by Butler, the other by what was then known as the George Bray Neighborhood Center.
Father was an influence
He credits not only his artist father as an influence on his life, but also Marcia Sykes, a family friend and his art teacher at Park High School. “She made me believe I could have a career in art after high school. She wanted me to be an art teacher. She connected with me more than just on a surface level. She really understood my art work and what my influences and inspirations were. She spoke my language.”
Sykes’ vision of Hutch as an art teacher was not to be. He preferred to be hands-on. “I went to (University of Wisconsin) Parkside one year, but it wasn’t my thing. I worked in the Johnson Diversey lab for four years, it wasn’t my thing. I always came back to art. I would get in trouble on third shift. I would be drawing when I was supposed to be making lab batches.”
Hutch was also greatly influenced by Art Bronaugh who sponsored an art competition at the Bray Center when Hutch was 11. He won first place. Bronaugh had an art business in Uptown. “I thought that was cool. If you didn’t have something to occupy you, things went south with a lot of youth. Thankfully, I had Art and people to keep pushing me to do it.”
His first art-related income was airbrushing t-shirts. “Everyone in the neighborhood had airbrushed t-shirts. I couldn’t afford fancy clothes, so we would paint it.”
The Butler mural commission came in a text message. They discussed what Butler wanted shown, but then he was free to interpret Butler’s career as a basketball player in his own way. “I’ve known Caron since I was 8 or 9. He gave me artistic freedom because he knows my work. I told him, ‘I’ll take care of you.’”
Hutch works in several media, and they are all reflected in the piece honoring Butler. Graffiti art was an early influence on his work. He also embraces illustrative comic style as well as continuing to airbrush. He included all three styles in the Butler mural, using spray paints, paint brushes and airbrushes.
Other murals in Racine, Kenosha, Waukegan
He has other murals in Racine (including one in the nursery at St. Paul Baptist Church), Kenosha, and Waukegan. He has also airbrushed cars and motorcycle helmets. Today he works with his father at Darren’s Black Hand Tattoo Gallery, 406 Main St. Drawing on skin is quite different than other media. “You get one chance; air brushing you can make mistakes on shirts or a wall. There is no way to prepare for it, you jump in with two feet.”
Working at Black Hand gives him the chance to not only embrace his passion to create, but also to be with his father. “I have been involved in tattoo shops since I was 12. I understood the culture. Everyone in my family played basketball. When they would go to the center, I would draw. If I didn’t have to go, I would go to the tattoo shop to be with my dad, because it was the coolest place.”
Youngsters who play basketball at the Bray Neighborhood Center can look at Hutch’s mural and perhaps dream of one day achieving the same kind of success as Butler. But they likely won’t realize that the groundwork for the mural was laid more than 25 years ago when a toddler tried to achieve his own dream by drawing on his grandmother’s wall.