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Mickael Broth, 35, and Brionna Nomi, 35 

Muralist and Education advocate and community organizer

click to enlarge mickael_borth_briona_nomi.jpg

Scott Elmquist

This husband-and-wife team caught our attention for their work primarily in two areas: public art and education.

Mickael Broth is a well-known muralist, whose art can be seen around town, including an upcoming abstract piece, "Perfect Bound," in front of the Hull Street library in Manchester. That project was funded by the city's public art fund, making him the first local artist in many years to receive funding, he points out.

His work is really about visual engagement. "I try to help people see the city in a different light, engage with their surroundings in ways that might be unexpected or not part of their daily routine," he says.

Broth is on the board of the nonprofit Street Art Festival and has done a lot of outreach to younger or inexperienced artists, while helping raise Richmond's profile. He's also put together a highly anticipated coffee table book, "Murals of Richmond," that is coming out through Chop Suey Books Books in mid-November.

But whenever Broth is lauded for his work, he's quick to make sure they know about his wife, Brionna Nomi, who is "really bringing about change" in education as an organizer and advocate, he points out.

She began her career teaching in the Richmond Public Schools for a decade, before pushing back on systemic problems.

"That's when I started to experience retaliation from my principal and district leadership, so I ended up leaving," she says. Now she advocates for teachers to speak up as professional educators, organizing teachers in People Organizing with Educators in Richmond. She's also a leader in Richmond Teachers for Social Justice, as well as working to defend the power of the School Board.

"I think there's a blatant attack on public education, education has become very politicized," she says. "And teachers need to push back."

For instance, she worked with advocates to oppose Mayor Levar Stoney's Education Compact after he was first elected. Then she ran into him at a Christmas party, they began talking, and soon she was putting together his teachers' advisory council. That group of 19 teachers had its first meeting with him on Oct. 15. Looking ahead, she hopes the mayor will be able to broker relationships and leverage his power to help them advocate for more state funding.

Nomi and her husband have worked together on art projects, too. They were project leaders for Art 180's first Performing Statistics project, which is about ending the school-to-prison pipeline. Broth had been jailed early in life for graffiti and since his wife was a teacher at the time, both were valuable voices in an ongoing successful program that received a half million dollar grant from the Robbins Foundation.

"That's sweet that my husband mentions me. Which is funny because he paints me as a witch all over the city," she says with a laugh. "There's one on 821 Restaurant and at Triple Crossing Brewery. … Yeah, we're a good balance."

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