Mickael Broth is known partly for the 2004 jail time he served for vandalism related to graffiti art in Richmond, Virginia.
“Jail is a weird place,” Broth says. “Being sent to jail for 10 months allowed me the opportunity to see how incredibly lucky I was (and am) to have a strong support network, between my friends, family and wife. My actions put everyone who cared about me through so much pain and burden that it was enough to get me to reconsider my approach to life.”
Since his release, Broth has gone on to win a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship for his gallery work, publish a memoir about his experiences in the justice system and find international acclaim for his “dancing” Bernie Sanders mural.
He is heavily vested in youth and community work as well. Broth co-founded Welcoming Walls, a public art project designed to boost Richmond’s creative capital and civic pride.
“I’ve been super-active painting murals. I think I’ve done over 150 large-scale pieces since for clients and public art projects,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve been producing a ton of abstract collage pieces. They have this glossy resin coat that gives them so much depth and vibrancy.”
Broth says his parents, who would take him to museums and the theater, influenced him rather than professionals. “I feel like I generally had really shitty art teachers up through high school,” he says. “I have multiple memories of people telling me my ideas were too weird or didn’t make sense, and that just made me think they didn’t have enough imagination.”
Persevering has paid off. “Follow your passion, not a paycheck whenever possible, but at the same time, there’s no shame in doing what you need to in order to eat,” says Broth, who worked for years as a digital re-toucher, coming home to draw for hours.
“It’s rare for opportunities to be handed to you, so you’ve got to put yourself out there. A simple thing that really helped me is actually answering the question, ‘What have you been up to?’ Most people just say some bullshit like “just working, man” or “chilling” or whatever. If you’ve been working on a kickass painting, say so! If you’ve got a big proposal to get a project, talk about it. I’ve had so many doors open simply by sharing my excitement about something I was working on.”
These days Broth gets to follow his “scatter-brained” inspiration wherever it leads. “I’ve been doing some painterly landscape/still life type murals, then the next week doing big abstracts that are entirely my thing, or pulling from my older illustration style to do figurative work,” he says.
Many people know Broth for his iconic witches. “The witch, as a character, is incredibly interesting to me, because she is simultaneously feared and persecuted,” he says. “That speaks volumes in the current political and cultural climate.”