Jamil Dyair Steele

Jamil Dyair Steele in front of his Black Lives Matter mural
Artist, Art Educator at Shamrock Gardens Elementary School, Charlotte

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art with a concentration in Illustration, Minor in Journalism, UNC Charlotte (2005)
Master of Art Education, Winthrop University  (2013)

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

In his 15 years as an art educator, Jamil Steele has taught in high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools, where he develops and implements “rigorous lesson plans to encourage students to develop artistic abilities in drawing, painting, sculpting, ceramics, and weaving,” he says. He also inspires his students to imagine greater futures for themselves and their communities.

“I try to encourage them to [follow their dreams], because I want to see them do great things in their own personal development and growth,” he told The Charlotte Post in 2016. “Even if they don’t choose to be an artist, they will have an appreciation for the arts. I think a lot of times some people have not been exposed enough to art to have an appreciation for it, or to see how much of an impact it has on life.”  

As a practicing artist, Jamil is shaping his hometown with his bold and colorful public artwork – especially in West Charlotte, where he grew up. He was recently selected to paint a mural on the I-77 and West Trade Street underpass and to design the glass panels for two bus terminals on West Boulevard and Remount Road. In these settings, his work will celebrate the history and culture of West Charlotte’s Black community. The bus terminal project is especially meaningful, Steele says, “because I have the opportunity to honor four local greats: Judy Williams (my second cousin), Charles Parker, Charlie Sifford (my great uncle), and artist TJ Reddy in the design.”

You can also see his work in other neighborhoods – three sidewalk murals on Montford Drive in South Charlotte and four murals at the Amaze Apartments in NoDa – and in the permanent collection of the Mint Museum, which recently acquired a Black Lives Matter mural that he created in the summer of 2020.

Jamil says that his time at UNC Charlotte prepared him for success both as a teacher and a practicing artist.

“I found my creative voice by learning to take a critical look at my technique and approach to art-making. I particularly gravitated to studying illustration because it allowed me the opportunity to express new ideas through visual narratives. My undergraduate experience also taught me the value of collaboration, constructive criticism, and creativity.”

Among his fondest memories are the weekly critiques that Associate Professor of Art and Illustration Area Coordinator Jamie Franki led.  

“It was a safe space to give and receive feedback, defend our creative choices, and take an artistic risk. That time spent informed my approach to teaching, and I strive to make my classroom a safe space for my students to do the same.”

As an educator, Jamil is expanding his sphere of influence in a new initiative called Project Protégé, a 10-week training program that pairs established artists with aspiring artists ages 18-23 to teach them how to successfully navigate a career in art through social practice. Among his words of wisdom:      

“Never stop exploring and searching for your artistic voice. Always make art that you are passionate about, and cherish meaningful connections with other creatives.” 

Learn more and see his work at his website.