ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — One artist is continuing to make his imprint across Star City. From murals to designs, the artwork of Bryce Cobbs has been making its way to the streets of Roanoke.
Cobbs took social media by storm in 2020 after completing a mural with Xavier Duckett of late rapper, Nipsey Hussle which was painted on 11th Avenue Northwest in Roanoke. As his art journey continued, his talent caught the eye of city leaders.
He was then tasked with designing the “Tank Town” mural, in the historic Gainsboro neighborhood. The mural captured the memory of Tank Town which was once a thriving entertainment business district for African Americans. But in 1971, it was torn down and replaced with the Berglund Center.
As the love from the community grew, Cobbs was then requested to create a piece that would highlight another piece of history, a Henrietta Lacks statue.
“I got an approach around almost two years ago to work on the project and help with this part of the project. I had a lot of time to think about it and come up with the idea and how I wanted to express the pose,” said Cobbs.
The design was first introduced in December 2022. After months of working, Blacksburg-based sculptor Lawrence Bechtel created a life-sized bronze statue, which was unveiled at the Henrietta Lacks Plaza on Oct. 4. The day marks the anniversary of Lacks’s passing, making the unveiling even more of a celebration of her life.
“I definitely wanted to have Henrittea portrayed as being a really powerful figure. Somebody very interesting her story is extremely interesting and I think a lot of people especially here in Roanoke should know her story,” explained Cobbs. “I wanted the pose to be something that showed a lot of dignity. Kinda invited people to walk up to it. And if you didn’t know who Henrietta Lacks was I feel like the pose and this statue will really pique your interest.”
He shared that his love for art was always in him.
In elementary school, he would draw in his notebook. Cobbs shared that when he was in high school, he took a few art classes and that’s when he knew this was something he wanted to pursue professionally.
He studied at Virginia Commonwealth University and has since returned to Roanoke to share his creativity with the city. In May 2023, the NAACP Roanoke Branch awarded Cobbs with the “Citizen of the Year Award in Arts.” When asked what was next, he said he hopes to continue working in the community.
“I love the support the city gives me to this day. I really want to continue to work around in my community and things like that. I want to help beautify Roanoke,” said Cobbs.
Sculptor Lawrence Bechtel and Bryce Cobbs with Henrieta Lacks statue. (Dustin Hennessey/ WFXR News)