Black Lives Matter mural coming to Oak Park

Will be painted on Scoville Avenue between Lake Street and North Boulevard

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

The newest piece of public art in Oak Park will be a Black Lives Matter street mural painted along the stretch of Scoville Avenue between Lake Street and North Boulevard. A mixture of Oak Park artists and resident volunteers have signed up to help paint the 130-feet long and 12-feet wide mural, paid for by the Oak Park Area Arts Council.

"We thought this was something that Oak Park needs to have – something that children in the community can see for hopefully years to come and know this is where we stand as a community," said Cullen Benson, who came up with the idea.

After seeing Black Lives Matter public art projects go up in other parts of the country, Benson used social media to posit the idea of doing something similar in Oak Park; the response from the community was immediate and supportive.

"It got a great response from the community and the community wanted to kind of help in any way they could donating their time, their money and supplies if they had it," said Benson.

As the plan started to materialize, Benson enlisted Cortlyn Kelly, whom he called a "wonderful artist and community organizer," to help manage the project's execution and coordinate work teams.

Multimedia artist Franka Del Santo signed on as lead designer and developed the mural's concept, which will consist of a black background with the words "Black Lives Matter" painted in gold, orange, red, yellow, purple and a touch of blue. Benson described the color scheme as "sunset tones."

Painting begins Wednesday, June 24; the mural is expected to be finished by Saturday, June 27 and unveiled to the public the following day during the Farmers Market. That portion of Scoville Avenue was just repaved this spring in anticipation of the Farmers Market. Benson and his team declined to share a rendering of the mural's design as they have not yet finalized it.

Benson believes Oak Park's mural will be the first street mural in the entire state of Illinois.

"We're going to be the first street mural done in the state of Illinois; we're actually going to be beating Chicago to it," he said. "We wanted to be the first to do it to show we're the trailblazers of the state."                    

A total of 18 volunteers will help execute the mural. To prevent the contraction of COVID-19, the volunteers will work in groups of three, painting different sections of the mural. Everyone is required to wear masks for the entire time they are at the location. Handwashing stations will also be on site.

The fact that Oak Park is making such a large and very public commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement is extremely meaningful to Benson, who was born and raised in the village.

"I'm half Black and half white, so I have both sides of the equation to deal with," said Benson. "It means a lot to me.

The group of people who have banded together to paint the mural include people of different skin colors, ages and genders, which Benson called "very impactful and powerful to me."

"There is going to be so many people of all different races and genders working on this project, coming together as one and as a community," he said.

The permanence of public art will allow people to reflect upon this particular time in the United States for generations to come.

"This is going to be a piece of history."

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Reader Comments

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Jason Cohen  

Posted: June 26th, 2020 6:57 PM

This is excellent and great work by the crew that did it. This is a positive reminder that until black lives matter all lives can't. Great job by the community making this happen. The people that show their ignorance should just be ignored. It's just the sounds of the past dying and a new future starting.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 26th, 2020 6:01 PM

Got the three-teaser and four minute long segment treatment on ABC-7 today. I think the artwork is professional grade. Good for them. a whole lotta people are gonna walk by it.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: June 26th, 2020 4:27 PM

Notwithstanding troglodytic right wingers, art should be everywhere. That includes art painted on streets, where it will be beautifully mutable, like life. Avaunt, narrowbrains.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: June 26th, 2020 9:33 AM

Is a mural on the street the best place for art? Driving over the mural with cars that leak ant freeze, drip oil Hot rods patching burn out rubber tire burn out tracks.Tour buses that drop their sanitation tanks over bridges that cross the Chicago River. People showing their disdain by driving over the mural at 3am dumping their garbage and worse on the street. Don't touch the clear plastic bottles filled partially with yellow liquid inside.

Patricia Littlecreek from Berwyn   

Posted: June 25th, 2020 11:48 PM

Thus will be a great asset to the murals in Oak Park!

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 9:10 PM

Jeffrey, you have made my point. Although I don't agree with you ever, I can't cancel your voice, because everyone has a right to speak. Cancel culture doesn't accomplish anything.

Les Golden  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 8:36 PM

This is a great idea. It will inspire pride in the black students who see it and erase the grade gap among D200 students, exactly like renaming Hawthorne after Percy Julian and renaming Emerson after Gwendolyn Brooks inspired black students in D97 to eradicate their grade gap, as was hoped by the D97 boards..

Alice Wellington  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 8:14 PM

BLM the organization, in their own words: '"We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we're trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories," said Cullors. Black Lives Matter the institution isn't trying to hide their Marxism either. As I list in my previous article, in their "what we believe" section, they list their goals and all of them are extreme leftist stances concerned with destroying the very fabric of America in favor of the implementation of radical marxist ideals'

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 8:05 PM

"Cancel culture" defined: - Cancel the lives of Black people by shooting them in the back or kneeling on their necks so they can't breathe. - Cancel reality. - Cancel science. - Cancel voting rights. - Cancel humanity. - Cancel thought. - Cancel variety. - Cancel education. - Cancel life. In short: be a Republican, for they are the Kings and Queens of Cancel Culture.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 5:14 PM

Cancel culture doesn't accomplish anything.

Mak Flournoy from Oak Park  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 12:20 PM

@Ray..."All lives matter" ...seriously?! Kind of like, "racism doesn't exist", right? I am going to punctuate this ?" STEP BACK and SIT DOWN! Listen, watch and perhaps you'll learn something but if you are a white guy, there is no more room for your opinion; there is no more space for you. You have sucked all of the air out of the room. So unless you want to help, advocate, or donate to black people while seated at the side table - you don't get to have an opinion about this. That mural is intended to lift black people up; and it should serve as a reminder to white people that we will no longer tolerate the pain, the suffering, nor the injustices of systems that YOU white people created to keep us back.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 11:07 AM

"Graphitti"? Where did you get that spelling of graffiti, Ray-Ray? Fox News?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: June 25th, 2020 10:13 AM

As one who believes that "All lives matter" I question what the goal of BLM is and what will this piece of authorized graphitti accomplish? Perhaps the BLM leadership could chip in a few bucks rather than their first class flights and luxurious hotel accommodations. Being sheep is not national leadership.and our effort would be better spent understanding the problem before conjuring up solutions that yield a moment on a news broadcast

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