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    • The mural of Dr. Bouchet on Henry Street in New Haven.

    • Kwadwo and Kwasi Adae pose in front of their work.

New Haven Artists Create Mural of Hopkins Alum

Sophia Nielson '23 Arts Editor
On September 15, 2021, artists Kwadwo and Kwasi Adae completed their mural of Hopkins alumnus Dr. Edward Alexander Bouchet. The mural was revealed on what would have been Bouchet’s 169th birthday, on Henry Street in downtown New Haven.
Bouchet was born and raised in New Haven and was later buried in Evergreen Cemetery after his death in 1918. Bouchet graduated valedictorian of his 1870 class at Hopkins Grammar School, before matriculating to Yale, where he studied Physics. When he completed his Ph.D. program in 1876, he was the first African American to receive a Ph.D., and the sixth person of any race to receive a Ph.D. from an American university.

Artist Kwadwo Adae has been creating art since he was seven years old. He is the founder and owner of the Adae Fine Art Academy in New Haven. Adae said he “founded the Adae Fine Art Academy after [he] graduated from NYU with [his] Masters in painting was unable to secure a job teaching at any college or university within a hundred-mile radius of New Haven.” He added that he thought to himself, “Instead of waiting for an institution to hire me, why don’t I just open my own art school and hire myself?”

Adae visited Bouchet’s grave at Evergreen Cemetery in 2019. Adae said he went there “to have a conversation with him about how compelled [he] was to honor his legacy and [to] ask him for help.” Adae “was confused as to why there was no public monument, no statue, or commemorative dedication for a man who was born in New Haven, educated here, and is currently buried here.” When he visited the grave, it had been 146 years since Bouchet had received his Ph.D. from Yale, and “with the exception of a few small portraits of him on the Yale University and Hopkins School campuses, there was no opportunity for people unaffiliated with these academic institutions to honor his accomplishments.”

This lack of representation and awareness of Bouchet’s accomplishments inspired Adae to create the mural in his honor. Adae said, “As a public artist, designing a mural to commemorate Dr. Bouchet was the perfect opportunity to spread further awareness of his accomplishments.” The mural was not only to give Bouchet the representation he deserves, but also to shine light on the lack of diversity in the world of public art. Adae mentioned that “the overwhelming majority of public art that [he sees] excludes the diversity of women and BIPOC representation. It is important to have depictions of other people besides white men.” From there, Adae and his sixteen-year-old son Kwasi went to work bringing Bouchet to life. When asked how the process began, Adae said “It started with a watercolor of Dr. Bouchet’s graduation portrait from 1876, which was converted to the triple portrait that is depicted in the mural with Photoshop and painted in color gradients as a nod to Dr. Bouchet’s thesis on “Measuring Refractive Light Indices.” Kwasi Adae added, “We started by priming the wall, then projecting the design my father made onto the wall using a projector at night. Then we traced the projection with sharpies and proceeded to paint the mural with exterior semi-gloss latex paint.”

This project was local in multiple ways. The father-son duo also worked with many local kids through Squash Haven, who helped them to paint the black background of the mural. Adae said that he is “also working with the Urban Resources Initiative that will be planting a Sweetgum and a Scarlet Oak tree in front of the mural so that these works of public art officially fight climate change by adding trees to New Haven’s urban forest.” Kwasi Adae also gave thanks to the benefactors: “The New Haven Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism, the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs, and of course Hopkins.”

This project was not the first time that father and son worked together. Adae said, “It was incredible working with Kwasi. He’s been an artist in his own right since he was a little boy, since he basically grew up in an art studio, and he’s been working on murals with me since he was nine years old, so it was not unfamiliar to work with him. He just can do so much more now than he could a few years ago. It’s really incredible, I never pushed him to be an artist, but I’m so happy that I get to spend time with him and work with him on these public art pieces every summer.” Kwasi had a similar experience, sharing positive feedback on his experience working with his father, while also commenting on some of the challenges: “I wouldn’t trade this job for the world. There are not many jobs where you can decide to go get milkshakes after work with your boss; then again, there are not many jobs where you go home and your boss is still there.”


The duo wants Hopkins students and New Haven locals alike to remember Bouchet and honor his accomplishments. Adae reminded Hopkins students that they “already know they are part of an amazing academic legacy. The mural is meant to honor the accomplishments of a brilliant Black scientist, beautify a community, and inspire people who are fighting adversities to fight harder to achieve their goals.” Kwasi Adae said, “I’d like you to remember Dr. Bouchet’s story. To tell it to your children and learn from it yourselves. Don’t forget that any of you can be valedictorians, innovators, bastions of change if you so desire. Your institution is a stepping stone for your careers and your interpersonal developments and I urge you to use it to the fullest extent you can muster. If you’re willing and able you can accomplish pretty much anything you set your mind to.”
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