Reflections from the artists:
We draw inspiration from the Wall of Respect; a collective mural created in 1967 by OBAC (Organization of Black American Culture) who were utilizing the project to promote the Black aesthetic in art, uplift the black community and fuel the liberation movement. Through careful planning, using photography, portraiture and poetry OBAC artists placed a multitude of Black Heroes on the walls of a building at 43rd and Langley. Subjects included people like Muhammad Ali, Nat Turner and Gwendolyn Brooks. These trailblazers inspired mural projects across the nation and were also the jumping off point from which we began conceptualizing the Children of the Wall project.
All the Children of the Wall lead artists come from a graffiti background and although our styles differ considerably in some respects, we do represent a certain aesthetic; essentially a certain “school” of muralists. By calling this project “Children of the Wall” we are acknowledging the key role historic projects like the Wall of Respect play in our identity but we are also highlighting the intergenerational component- we are the humble successors who bring our own language and stories to the mix. Because illegal graffiti played a key role in our artistic development we are also “children of the wall” in the sense that painting walls fascinated us as youths. They were what we climbed on, hide behind and painted our names on in an effort for recognition, excitement and a voice. We feel a strong connection to the brick and crumbing concrete viaducts of the southside and also the people who inhabit it, family, friends, elders, neighbors.
With the help of DJ Lunchbox Law, Ang13 and groups like Kuumba Lynx and IMAN we kicked things off with a community event to essentially “bless the project.” The event included rappers, poets, live graffiti painting, food and community art projects. (Performers also included Stick and Move Youth Crew, University of Hiphop, JNX and Urbanized Music. Graffiti panels were painted live during the event by Bel2, Raven, Dwel and Stef.)
As the Wall of Respect did before us, we used a variety of disciplines to address the concept of heroes. Rather than looking outward into the larger world, we looked on either side of ourselves for the unsung heroes. We asked the community and of ourselves:
Who are the everyday heroes? What are their superpowers?
People as young as 4 yrs old responded through social media and hand-written contributions. Heroes listed included activists, artists, mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters, sons, all children, teachers, black and brown friends, women, God, the elements, ourselves. They were accredited with powers such as boundless perseverance, resourcefulness, love, vulnerability, forgiveness, empowerment of others. What we discovered through this process is that in order to continue to move forward toward a more just and beloved community, we need to be able to not only recognize the everyday hero next to us, but also find the hero within ourselves and be ready to take on that role when needed.
Through this project we also hope to draw attention to the historical diversity of the Hyde Park community- economic as well as racial. We hope Hyde Parkers old and new, can look past economic and cultural differences and make sincere efforts to get to know neighbors to the south, west and north. The wellbeing and health of families in Woodlawn and Englewood (for example) are tied undeniably to theirs.
We would like to thank all the elders who schooled us on the struggle and enriched our lives. Also, special thanks to the Allison Peters Quinn and everyone at the Hyde Park Art Center for trusting us with it’s walls and facilitating the many challenging aspects of this project. Thanks to our families for their patience and support in our creative endeavors. Thanks to all the artists and performers who contributed their time and contributions. Special thanks to Michelle Nordmeyer from the Hyde Park Art Center for always being available to help with logistics, drill bits and extension cords. Another special thanks to Stephanie D’Hubert for her invaluable technological assistance in the creation of the renditions and large-scale stencils.