After widespread Black Lives Matter protests took to the streets in the last week that unearthed a racial reckoning all over the globe after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Logan Square businesses and artists have filled the neighborhood with solidarity.
Everywhere you turn, messages of power, hope and unity fill storefronts, residential homes, signs and parks around the neighborhood. Some artwork was made on boarded-up panels on storefronts that experienced damage during a weekend of looting, though Logan Square was only minimally hit.
Artists have taken the opportunity to express themselves with strong messages of racial equity and social justice; some pieces also honor Floyd and Breonna Taylor. A new arts initiative created by a downtown architecture design firm has helped commission artists of color and raise $25,000 in 48 hours to help transform the city into a canvas, including five businesses in the neighborhood.
The Dill Pickle Coop, Paulie Gee’s, Chicago’s Distilling Company, Hairitics and Felt have artwork commissioned by Sounding Boards, started June 7 by interior designer and Avondale resident Christina Brown from Eastlake Studio.
“Many people are grasping for a way to participate in the conversation right now and we feel like the intersection of art and small business is the right way for us to make a difference with the talents and skills that we possess as designers,” Brown said. “It’s important to us that we recognize the platform we have and use it in a way to amplify voices of others.”
She acknowledged that the design and architecture firm also needs to make changes to be more inclusive and diverse. With only about two percent of Black architects in an industry of 115,000 U.S. architects, Brown sees these art partnerships as the first way to create change in the the historically white profession.
“We recognize that the only way to change that is by doing outreach to communities and schools to recruit talented youth,” she said. “We should no longer be using the excuse that we just don’t have enough minority candidates to be a diverse and inclusive profession. We need to work to create that change and this project goes the very core of that.”
So far, the project has commissioned more than 20 artists to create work in Logan Square, Bucktown and Wicker Park. You can check out the artists and the locations of each piece here and check the Sounding Boards’ Instagram for updates on new work.
Brown said an 11’ by 8’ piece by artist Bird Milk originally painted on Bucktown cafe Tortello needs to be relocated. If any Logan Square businesses would like the piece, you can contact her at [email protected].
Sounding Board’s goal is to donate 50% of the money raised to My Block, My Hood, My City’s Small Business Relief Fund — which just surpassed $1 million donations — but its first priority is paying the artists, Brown said. The group has raised about $30,000 so far but is still accepting donations to keep producing artwork around the city and supporting Black-led organizations and artists.
“By supporting My Block, My Hood, My City, we see an opportunity to help small businesses in the near term, but also help pass the torch to our youth in the long term,” the founder said. “Art funding has nearly evaporated over the course of our generation and we hope this project reinvigorates people, communities, and ultimately Chicago.”
Check out other messages of solidarity from around the neighborhood below.
Featured photo: Kate Hamilton