Paint the City Initiative Aims to ‘Heal the City Through Art’

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

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  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

  • A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

    A Paint the City mural in Chicago. (WTTW News)

An art alliance has been beautifying boarded-up buildings downtown and throughout the city as a form of protest. 

The initiative is called Paint the City.

“This piece is going to deal with what’s going on in society, black lives mattering,” said Barrett Keithley, one of the co-founders of the group. “The riots and the looting and all that stuff … But there’s going to be some peacefulness in it, because that’s kind of what we need. For sure, fight the good fight, but we’ve also got to keep our spirits high, too.”

That’s one of the group’s many goals.

Keithley says they’re using art as a way to respond to how the world is currently understanding racism.

“Our form of activism as artists is our platform and the businesses, by connecting the local artists to the local businesses, gives us our platform to say our peace and speak volume. In every part of history there’s always been an artist narrating that part of history. For us it’s no different. So we wanted to make sure we were here in a major way.”

Comprised of 75 artists who volunteer their time for free, co-founder Missy Perkins says they’ve painted boarded-up windows throughout the city since recent protests began. 

“Downtown was obviously affected a lot with the protests and the  riots and I think it’s actually good and important that the businesses are here supporting the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement through that. It’s interesting to see that a lot of them do understand that a message needs to be sent and created,” Perkins said.

“The art that we’re doing on these businesses I think kind of opens up for those conversations to happen, and peacefully happen so people can try and understand where others are coming from.”

As the city enters phase four of its reopening plan and more businesses open their doors, Paint the City hopes to take the boards down and display them in art galleries. The co-founders also want to encourage people to vote by turning the boards into voting booths around the city, sort of like the iconic 1999 “Cows on Parade” art installation, Keithley said. “We want to do the same thing in motivating people to vote in this upcoming election. Another form of protesting or activism.”

In the meantime, their primary goal remains the same: “To heal the city through art,” Keithley says.


More on this story

Paint the City is asking for donations to pay its artists via a GoFundMe campaign.

Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.


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