Six Black Lives Matter (BLM) murals were unveiled on various streets in Kansas City Sept. 5th. These murals can be found at the following intersections:
- E. 63rd and Brookside Blvd. E. 63rd St.and Troost Ave.,
- 31st St. and Troost Ave.
- E. 18th and Vine St.
- W. 10th St.and Baltimore Ave.
- Northwest Briarcliff Pkwy and North Mulberry Dr.
Around 1,000 volunteers worked together to create these murals that “recognize the importance and significance of the Black Lives Matter movement” and aim to advance “social justice and racial equity.” These aforementioned goals were stipulated in a resolution adopted by the Kansas City council Aug. 8 which authorized the creation of the mural installation.
Earnest Rouse, the Acting City Manager of Kansas City, was tasked with overseeing the completion of the murals. Further, the resolution stipulated that the mural should be created through a partnership between KC Art on the Block, The Urban League of Greater Kansas City and the Troost Market Collective. The project was paid for through donations.
The mural installation took an estimated 600 gallons of paint. The murals collectively span about 2,000 feet of street and are thought to be the largest project of its kind in the US.
Each of the murals were created according to the vision of different lead artists. Each of the murals are quite distinct – though they are nonetheless unified by the common vision of an anti-racist Kansas City community.
For example, the mural found on 31st St. and Troost Ave. was directed by Michael Toombs, an American artist who is based in Kansas City. Toombs founded Storytellers Inc, a non-profit visual and performing arts organization. For his mural installation, Toombs focused on civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King. Toombs also brought attention to the historic racial segregation along Troost Ave. by incorporating a red line in the mural.
The following quotes are from the lead artists for each of the six murals.
10th and Baltimore
Artist: Avrion Jackson
“I want everyone to know that this isn’t a one day thing… it should matter everyday.”
63rd and Troost
Artist: Vivian Wilson Bluet
“When someone is told… that they matter, that their heartbeat is important, their thoughts, their dreams, their futures aren’t going to be hijacked by a traffic stop, that matters.”
Briarcliff and Mulberry
Artist: Harold Smith
“Black Lives Matter is not saying that other lives don’t matter. It’s not saying that our lives are more important than others. But it’s acknowledging a problem that exists that Black lives are undervalued in America.”
Troost and 31st
Artist: Michael Toombs
“When you see so many diverse individuals come together for the purpose of sending that message [that Black lives matter], it just makes you feel good about humanity.”
18th and Vine
Artist: Adrianne Clayton
“It’s a reminder that we matter, it’s a reminder that we are unified, that we’re stronger together, it’s a reminder to fight for equality. And to celebrate who we are as a people.”
Support for the mural installation was overwhelming – in fact, because so many people signed up to volunteer on the project’s Facebook post, the sign up sheet had to be taken down. Not all volunteers who signed up could be included on the project because of social distancing restrictions.
The mural in Briarcliff and Mulberry was vandalized Sept. 5. An unidentified individual dropped white paint and burnt rubber over the mural. Cameras on both sides of the street captured the individual, though police say that they are not investigating the vandalization of the mural as a hate-crime or as property damage. This is because the mural is government property and the government cannot be a victim of a hate crime.
Another issue contributing to difficulties involving the investigative process is that the city did not ascertain the value of the paint that went into the murals before the vandalization occurred. Thus, it is difficult to assess the extent of damage that a claim of property damage would make. Authorities are unsure of the intent of the vandalization, though residents are convinced that this was a purposeful and malicious act.
Harold Smith, the lead artist of the damaged mural, said that it may be prudent to incorporate the act of vandalism into the artwork itself.
“Rather than satisfy the vandal by going through the effort to erase their act of hate, we should use artistic and creative means to make it a part of the art,” Smith said. “That would be a profound social and artistic statement the same way Black musicians have channeled their pain to create the blues.”
The six Black Lives Matter Murals are part of a three-pronged approach adopted by the Kansas City council for the purposes of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Specifically, the murals are phase one of this approach. Phase two will involve the creation of permanent “vertical” murals on buildings throughout Kansas City. Phase three involves creating an application so that private individuals and organizations can propose the creation of artworks supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in their own neighborhoods.