City Beat

Sacramento painter shares his light and his art

Like a lot of other young artists, Demetris Washington has struggled with that life. Sometimes he prays for a big break.

Recently, Washington’s pastor delivered to him a simple message: “Sometimes you can give your way out of a situation.”

It was that counsel that led Washington to the front of Crocker Art Museum last week. As the sun drowned the plaza in light, Washington walked to a pathway along the old museum building and placed a painting on the ground.

Then he walked away.

The painting was called “The Firefly,” and Washington has sold similar works for $600. But he wasn’t getting a dime for this one.

Instead, he took to social media and, for the fourth time in recent weeks, posted a clue to the location of where he was leaving the painting. The reaction was nearly immediate, like it had been the other times.

Within minutes, Zayn Silmi, who blogs at, walked briskly up to the painting. He grabbed it and, spotting Washington across the street, held his new artwork above his head.

“His art is so valuable, and the fact he’s sharing it shows his love for the community,” Silmi said, posing for a photo with Washington in front of the museum.

It really is a generous notion: sharing something not just valuable but that was created from one’s passion. Washington also left a painting in Cesar Chavez Plaza and another at the Warehouse Artist Lofts on R Street. A painting he left in the rose garden in Capitol Park was picked up by a young woman on her way to a job interview (she got the job).

“I’m just practicing the art of letting go,” Washington said. “And giving.”

This kid is all over Sacramento. He has painted murals on J Street and Del Paso Boulevard. Earlier this year, I wrote about a mural Washington was finishing on the side of a 7-Eleven on Mack Road in south Sacramento. It’s not the most glamorous canvas in town, but Washington lives down there and wanted to give some light to the area.

Now, Washington is hoping to get a little help from his city.

One of his drawings was chosen for a specialty label on Blue Moon beer. He was one of only 20 artists in the country to be chosen. Fans are being asked to vote on Blue Moon’s Facebook page for their favorite design. The winner will get $20,000.

That’s a great payday for a young artist. Washington, 24, is going back to school for a degree in graphic design. Despite his deep portfolio of public art and a huge following here, the artist’s life has challenged him.

But if Washington is thinking about quitting, it doesn’t show. He goes by the nickname BAMR, which stands for “Becoming A Man Righteously.” He’s always working.

“The Firefly” is the embodiment of his eternal optimism. It shows a young woman, smiling, surrounded by light and fire. And on the back of the painting, Washington left a note for its new keeper.

“May this work of art grant its new owner with an abundance of light,” it reads. “In both good, and dark times.”

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