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Artists beautify swath of plywood covering a South Loop movie theater complex

“We wanted to have uplifting, positive messages,” said Beth Swanson, an artist who worked with the property manager at Showplace ICON Theatre

Artists Emmanuel Gomez, MoBella Russo and Allie Kushnir work on their pieces at the Roosevelt Collection Shops on 150 W Roosevelt Rd, in South Loop, Chicago, Monday June 15, 2020. More than twenty artists from Chicago were invited to create works of art on plywood at the Chicago Showplace Icon in an effort to promote peace and equality for all.
Artists Emmanuel Gomez, MoBella Russo and Allie Kushnir join about 20 others to create works of art on plywood at the Chicago Showplace Icon in an effort to promote peace and equality for all.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Of all the images of the protests churning in Heather Gentile Collins’ mind, one rose to the surface — that of a man calling out for his mother.

The image of George Floyd uttering that dying word while pinned beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer helped guide Collins’ vision, as she and about 20 other Chicago-area artists collaborated Monday on a project to beautify a broad swath of plywood covering a South Loop movie theater complex.

“I’m a mother of three girls, and I think every woman became empowered by that (image),” said Collins, an artist who lives in Roscoe Village.

And so Collins’ mural was simple: a backdrop of white script — “mother,” “sister,” “daughter” — painted on black. Overlaying the words were two women, one black and one white, holding a sign that read: “We stand together.”

Beth Swanson, an artist who organized the project with the property management at Roosevelt Collection, the outdoor mall where the movie theater is located, said: “We wanted to have uplifting, positive messages. We believe the [Black Lives Matter] movement is necessary and good, and we wanted to beautify the movement.”

Britni Mara, 28, lives in Humboldt Park and chose to paint the Black Lives Matter fist. She said she made a conscious choice to “stay away from skin tone because I don’t think it matters.”

“The unity behind everyone coming together right now is what’s important,” Mara said, choosing instead a palette of turquoise, teal, pink, gold and purple.

Christine Pace, 30, a Chicago Public Schools art teachers, painted an “anatomical” heart, along with quoting the words of African American writer Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks: “Love is an action, never simply a feeling.”

“A lot of times, my work centers around teaching students to stand up for what’s right and to ... inspire others to be better versions of themselves,” Pace said. “So I feel like because I’m trying to teach kids that, I should model that myself. That was a big motivation for me coming out today.”

Britni Mara adds shading detail to her work at the Roosevelt Collection Shops on 150 W Roosevelt Rd, in South Loop, Chicago, Monday June 15, 2020. More than twenty artists from Chicago were invited to create works of art on plywood at the Chicago Showplace Icon in an effort to promote peace and equality for all.
Britni Mara adds shading detail to her work at the Roosevelt Collection Shops in South Loop.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Emmanuel Gomez sprays the outline of the face on a character on his mural at the Roosevelt Collection Shops on 150 W Roosevelt Rd, in South Loop, Chicago, Monday June 15, 2020. More than twenty artists from Chicago were invited to create works of art on plywood at the Chicago Showplace Icon in an effort to promote peace and equality for all.
Emmanuel Gomez sprays the outline of the face on a character on his mural at the Roosevelt Collection Shops on Monday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Artists work on their murals at the Roosevelt Collection Shops on 150 W Roosevelt Rd, in South Loop, Chicago, Monday June 15, 2020. More than twenty artists from Chicago were invited to create works of art on plywood at the Chicago Showplace Icon in an effort to promote peace and equality for all. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Artists work on murals at the Roosevelt Collection Shops in an effort to promote peace and equality for all.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Artists work on their murals at the Roosevelt Collection Shops on 150 W Roosevelt Rd, in South Loop, Chicago, Monday June 15, 2020. More than twenty artists from Chicago were invited to create works of art on plywood at the Chicago Showplace Icon in an effort to promote peace and equality for all. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Artists work on murals at the Roosevelt Collection Shops in an effort to promote peace and equality for all.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times