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Boarded up businesses transformed with murals: a project by Missy Perkins and Barrett Keithley

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Posted  22 days ago  in  Trending

2 MIN READ - Artist Barrett Keithley, who has worked on various ACTIVATE events with Chicago Loop Alliance, is working to replace images of desolation and destruction with images of hope and unity.


Keithley and his partner, Missy Perkins, also an ACTIVATE curator, conceived the “Paint the City” project  and enlisted over 75 artists to paint murals on boarded up buildings across the city, including in the Loop. Downtown businesses who’ve taken advantage of this offer include Elephant & Castle, the Joffrey Ballet, Target, InterPark, the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, Goddess and the Baker, and University Center. The project’s stated mission is to create inspiring works of art that support equality and show that Black Lives Matter. 

Joffrey Ballet mural resized

“Paint the City is our way of helping our city heal,” said Keithley, a self-taught artist who grew up on Chicago’s South Side. “We want to help restore our community, and transforming boarded up buildings into an art gallery of sorts is one way to do that.”

Once a business contacts the team, they meet with them to decide what they’d like on the building. It could be something of the owner’s choosing, or they can give the artists license to create. Keithley said most people are just looking for something uplifting. Most importantly, these are local artists contributing to their local community, and residents are supporting their effort by dropping off food and refreshments to the artists while they work.

Elephant and Castle mural resized

Keithley said the long-term goal of “Paint the City” is to create equal opportunities and resources for Black people within the art community and support local businesses. Turning outdoor spaces into galleries, he said, is one way the arts community can rebound post COVID-19.

The service is free to business owners who may contact Missy Perkins via email at Missygem13@gmail.com. They have also launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of supplies and provide artists with stipends.

Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel mural resized