Keni Hyatt: Mural Artist Transforming the Streets of Kingston, Jamaica
Jamaica is known for its vibrant murals that enliven its streets. Painted by local artisans, the colorful imagery depicts a connected and purposeful community. Mustard Seed Communities is proud to acknowledge the contributions that resident Keni Hyatt has made to the masterpieces lining the alleys and roadways throughout Kingston. His paintings are a reflection of relationship, nature, and an expanded mindset.
Keni has always had a flair for artistic expression. Recounting a time his Mustard Seed teacher encouraged him to explore his talents, he states, “When I was living at Jerusalem!, my art teacher, Ms. Robert, told me to focus on what I see in front of me … so I focused on nature.” After he gained confidence in painting on his own, Keni wanted to branch out to projects on a larger scale.
Through Eye on Jamaica, a local nonprofit organization that strives to connect the Jamaican community in impactful ways, Keni was introduced to Sheldon Blake. As an artist, teacher, and someone who uses art as a healing force in the community, Sheldon has been an inspiration in Kingston’s downtown redevelopment initiative.
An experienced muralist, with works peppered throughout the city, Sheldon began leading Keni in an apprenticeship to become a mural artist. Day after day, Keni would accompany Sheldon to various pockets in town to instruct him on the ins and outs of transforming a blank slate into an inspirational conversation-starter. “He’s always eager to learn and get it right,” Sheldon remarked. “With that kind of attitude, there’s a lot more development to take place.” Besides learning how the sun and weather affect colors and how to anticipate the hours of daylight during each painting session, Keni learned how to interact with people passing by.
Through meeting countless community members, listening to their stories and sharing his own, Keni learned the power of creating meaningful connections. As people—from children bustling home from school to Social Development Commission employees on break —noticed the transformative work Keni and Sheldon were completing in their own neighborhoods, they were energized to pick up a paintbrush and join the movement to renew Kingston.
Sheldon explains how the murals leave a lasting impression on the community, saying: “It’s a fabulous experience to meet community members and create meaningful relationships as we paint. So when we leave the work, it’s not us… it’s the community. So they will take care of it and enjoy it more than we will.”
Keni Hyatt paints a "Welcome to Jamaica" mural in Kingston, Jamaica.
Keni’s experience positively affecting the community through his artwork is a testament to the confidence he’s gained through his life journey. He speaks with gratitude for his Mustard Seed Communities caregivers, teachers, leaders, and of course, Sheldon. “Working on these murals changed my life,” Keni acknowledges. “It showed me how to focus more — not just in painting, but to focus better overall.”
MSC Mission Volunteers travel to the Kingston Artwalk to soak in the Jamaican culture portrayed in the murals painted by local artists, including Sheldon Blake and Keni Hyatt!