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21Country: Fort Wayne hangs Phresh Laundry

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - “Phresh Laundry came from a place of not knowing my identity,” Theoplis Smith III told us.

The artist has spent most of his life in Northeast Indiana, and continues to invest his time and talent into bringing positivity to the Summit City.

“Growing up here, I feel like its my right, and it’s my diligence to make sure I’m bringing some kind of positivity to the city,” Smith said.

His most visible work is in the public.

Smith has contributed to several murals like the “I Scream Fort Wayne” near The Landing, and he also collaborated on the “Truth” mural on the city’s southeast side.

His most notable clients include Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is President Biden’s pick for HUD Secretary, movie director Spike Lee, and Gene Simmons of “Kiss”.

But he hasn’t always had that kind of success.

The origin of his artist name, “Phresh Laundry” comes from humble beginnings.

“I literally found myself sobbing in a load of dirty clothes, where I was going to do something detrimental to myself, and I found a revelation,” Smith shared, “I come from a family of faith, and there’s a scripture in the Bible where David is talking to God and it says, ‘created me a clean heart and renew the right spirit within me - a steadfast spirit within me’. And the only time I felt that enjoyment was either praying, painting, or talking to people. And so versus me doing something harmful to myself, I decided to have the best intentions and paint. And so when I’m painting - of course other people have art - but this is me hanging my laundry.”

Talent runs in the family.

Smith’s father was an oil painter and his mother was a seamstress.

Art was always his outlet.

Now he uses it as an outlet to make his voice heard.

An example of that, could be found on the mural he painted over plywood covering the broken window of Fortezza following protests downtown in 2020.

“That’s my way of helping with the healing, help drawing awareness but also to charge forward with this saying ‘hey, we can literally paint a better picture’” he told us.

As far as honoring Black History Month, Smith wants people to know, black excellence should be recognized and celebrated all year long, beyond the 28 days a year Americans set aside for it.

“I’m so thankful that we can highlight history and culture. I’m proud we can do that. And I want us to do more of that, in our schools and in our homes and with our friends. And especially with diversity and inclusion in our businesses. I think that’s very very vital but make it more than just February,” Smith said, “We have a lot of long going legacies with a lot of culture and a lot of creeds, and there’s a lot going on. But I’m willing to take the extra step to unpack life with people, and make sure its beyond February to do so. So if anyone wants to highlight me or celebrate Black History, there’s a lot of things we can do besides just the month of February to do. Black excellence is everyday.”

For more information on Theoplis Smith and his work, you can find his website here, and his instagram account here.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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