A Black Lives Matter street mural was installed Oct. 24 on Elm Street. Displayed in front of the Banneker Community Center, it was planned in collaboration with members of the center’s Advisory Council and the City of Bloomington Arts Council. A second mural is planned to be placed in a more trafficked area downtown.
The mural, designed by local artists Christina Elem and Raheem Elmore, was painted in one day by around 80 volunteers as a part of a community event.
The idea for the murals started within the center's advisory council in early July, moving to the BAC for approval. The project proposal passed through several steps of approval within the city government, and led to the resolution of the City Council to approve the creation of two murals. This was done in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and as a response to the killing of George Floyd.
According to Sean Starowitz, assistant arts director of the BAC, the planning process of the mural was shorter compared to other projects he has worked on. This was also the first piece he has seen to have a resolution made by City Council tied to it.
“I think part of it getting fast tracked was because we didn’t want to hold our feet on getting on the van of racial justice and racial equity,” said Tyler Myles, IU graduate student and arts intern for Starowitz.
Elem said each word contains a symbolic homage to the Black community. The word “Black” highlights Black culture, history, lineage and Pan-Africanism.
“We also wanted to make sure we highlighted the names of the fallen people who have been murdered because of police brutality, so that’s why we wanted that center so we had people write in their names,” Elem said. “The sad part is that we had enough names to fill in all the letters.”
The design of the word “Matters” focuses on other identities that intersect with the Black community such as the LGBTQ community, women and those who are disabled.
The purpose of having two murals painted cater to concerns of wanting a mural in a popular location and one that will last long. Elm Street is not highly trafficked, but the BLM movement reflects the feelings of the Banneker Community Center.
“I think site specificity in terms of public art is really important,” Straowitz said. “In terms of technical issues it’s really important to make sure that we’re providing the best opportunity for the artist to have their work on view. Elm Street made sense in it having low traffic. The tie-in to the Banneker Center was really powerful with the community center and the people involved in that.”
The specific location of the second mural is to be decided next week by the BAC. It is planned to be placed downtown to serve the purpose of educating and making a larger statement to those outside of the Black community. The design will be simpler to accommodate for the accelerated wear it will endure.
“There are people who are confused or don’t agree with the BLM sentiment, which is tragic because it’s just literally saying ‘Black Lives Matter,'” Starowitz said. “There’s no political message behind it. You’re either racist or you’re anti-racist.”
Starowitz and Myles both said they feel the choice to make the community-based mural first has helped fuel energy for the second piece despite concerns of unpredictable weather changes that will affect its durability.
“From my perspective, it was more powerful to have the community engagement piece first over the more educational awareness and activism piece in a high traffic area,” Myles said. “I think they’re both important, but starting [the first one] shows the community that we’re here for you and gave them a safe space to just be them.”
Elem, Myles and Starowitz all agree this mural is meant to stimulate the conversation related to the Black Lives Matter movement and lead to implementation of new policies to aid the community.