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William C Byers: the late artist behind our 20th Anniversary street banners

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

For the next few years, visitors to Mid City will be greeted with a series of colorful banners along lighting poles on Washington Blvd. We are supplementing the Mid City Artist banners from our contest last year with banners commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Mid City Neighborhood Council:

These banners celebrate Mid City's history of music and culture with 9 pieces from late artist Bill Byers' Jazz series.

William Charles “Bill” Byers was a talented artist and saxophonist born in North Carolina in 1925. His parents and five siblings later moved to Washington D.C., where he graduated from Dunbar High School. After serving in the United States Navy, Bill attended an art school in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, following famous Mexican artists David Siquieros and Diego Rivera, and eventually earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Universitario de las Americas in Mexico City.

Bill returned to the United States and moved to Detroit with his wife Marilyn and two young children in the early 1960s. While earning a Master’s degree in Art at Wayne State University, he continued painting jazz figures and created an explosive acclaimed series chronicling the Civil Rights movement. Bill eventually moved his family to Los Angeles in 1969, taking a job as an art teacher at Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles, where he taught until retiring in 1992. Bill was privileged to have had famed musicians Patrice Rushen and the late, great, Ndugu Chancler, as students. He supported L.A. jazz clubs and artists, raising social consciousness and the cultural achievements of jazz legends through his paintings, as well as the every-day plaintive faces of African-American peoples subjected to oppression and institutionalized discrimination.

Bill’s iconic “Altoman”, and the other musicians and dancers depicted in MINC’s 20th anniversary celebration historic street banners, pay tribute to legendary artists such as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Judith Jamison, Coleman Hawkins, Lester “Prez” Young, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, Josephine Baker, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, and many more.

His works are in many private collections across the country.

Please join us on June 12th at the Wellington Farmer's Market, 10am-noon, to celebrate Mid City and our community.

An unveiling of the banners and celebration of Bill C Byers will take place at the anniversary event. There will be provided food, water, dessert, music, kid's books, face painting, and more.


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