Colorful collage of triangles

Shanina Dionna

"The Big Clean Up, 2020"

Artist Bio:

Shanina Dionna (she/her) is an Oahu, Hawaii born and Greater Philadelphia based visual and performance artist, mental health advocate and non-profit youth arts educator. Since 2011, her works have built a platform throughout Philadelphia and surrounding areas raising mental health awareness through the annual Embryo art exhibition series. Her personal mental health and wellness journey through diagnoses, hospitalization, therapy treatments and creative healing help inform her artwork. 

Shanina Dionna's stride in cultivating social change through the arts is strengthened by growing relationships with the Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual disAbility Services, a local chapter for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and BeWell Philly. In 2016, she helped found a free youth art program, @artbudsphilly (on Instagram), currently housed at the Urban Art Gallery in West Philadelphia. In 2018, she became one of twenty artists worldwide to receive the first-ever TDC20 Grant (The Dean Collection 20 Grant) presented by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz. In 2020, Philadelphia Magazine, she was recognized as the “Philly artist creating a positive space for mental health conversations.” Shanina Dionna is a current student with PCEATI (Person Centered Expressive Arts Therapy Institute, Sonoma, California) and is due to receive certification in Spring 2021; she will facilitate expressive arts therapy sessions post graduation. 

“Art helped save my life. I simply desire to pay that forward.” - Shanina Dionna


Artist Statement:

"The Big Clean Up" is a community-led group of local artists, entrepreneurs and influencers helping to clean the streets of Philadelphia as a form of proactive problem solving in our Black communities. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and BIack Lives Matter movement, I recently joined their efforts during the third monthly gathering - this time in Germantown. This mural is my love letter to TBCU. It serves to help amplify the message to respect the place(s) we call home. To take ownership and accountability for our actions. To honor our peers giving back and building community; and to illuminate the philanthropic pursuits of our inner city youth. The young, Black boy, Xavier, who takes center stage in this piece inspired me deeply during our time picking up trash in the local neighborhood. He had such vigor and charisma that made cleaning in the summer heat more bearable and even fun. When I acknowledged and praised his efforts openly, his father, Alonzo, let me know he was working hard because pizza was waiting for him after it was done. Smart kid.

This mural references an original image by photographer, Cathie Berrey (@beaumondeoriginals on Instagram). The addition of ivy foliage frames the portrait - representing a sense of protection for this work and the people doing it. This was inspired by Alyssa Rainville, a manager I have befriended at Vault + Vine in East Falls - a local floral studio. She shared with me the symbolism behind the poison ivy plant. It is a defender of the land and creator of boundaries. This plant compels us to be aware and deliberate when we're in its territory; and so it is.


THANK YOU to the incredible team spearheading this positive work in Philly during this time, "just cause". And to the sanitation workers taking safety measures due to COVID-19, we stand with you. Visit @thebigcleanupphilly on Instagram for upcoming events and to learn how you may get involved.

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