clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bronzeville mural celebrates legacy of historic community

The mural tells the story of Bronzeville’s past and potential future through the representation of iconic Black leaders and activists connected to the community, such as Harold Washington and Ida B. Wells.

Portions of the “Bronzeville Renaissance” mural by ComEd near 3807 S Michigan Ave In Bronzeville Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020.
Portions of the “Bronzeville Renaissance” mural by ComEd near 38th Street and Michigan Avenue in Bronzeville Thursday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A once-vacant Bronzeville lot is the home of a 40-yard mural depicting the neighborhood’s historic legacy, with the help of a partnership between ComEd, community groups and local artists.

The Bronzeville Renaissance Mural, placed on 38th Street and Michigan Avenue, was painted onto the wall of a ComEd owned microgrid unit and completed in mid- August. On Thursday, it was officially unveiled during a virtual event where company officials and community groups spoke to the resiliency of the project and community.

The mural took more than six months to complete after struggles with winter weather and the COVID-19 pandemic. To beat these challenges, artists used a technique that called for the mural to be painted on a fabric that was later assembled into larger panels and attached to the outdoor wall. As a result, it’s expected to last at least 25 years without needing a touch-up.

The mural tells the story of Bronzeville’s past and potential future through the representation of iconic Black leaders and activists connected to the community, such as the late Mayor Harold Washington and trailblazing journalist/activist Ida B. Wells. It also links digital and physical spaces through the use of virtual reality, an initiative spearheaded by Miami-based creative lab Before It’s Too Late. It hopes to celebrate the legacy of the community while also leaving space for new sustainable advancements, says Dr. Shay Bahramirad, vice president of Smart Grid and Engineering at ComEd.

“The mural is a true reflection of the community’s past and present,’ says Bahramirad. “From the climate crisis to intense social change, this mural is meant to inspire us to do more.”

“Bronzeville Renaissance” mural by ComEd near 3807 S Michigan Ave In Bronzeville Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
“Bronzeville Renaissance” mural by ComEd near 38th Street and Michigan Avenue in Bronzeville.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Artistic elements were led by Gallery Guichard, a Bronzeville art gallery opened in 2005, and local artists Shawn Warren and Rahmaan Barnes, including help from students from Little Black Pearl High School. Warren painted the section that shows the neighborhood’s history while Barnes painted the parts of the mural that speak to the future.

Andre and Frances Guichard, co-owners of Gallery Guichard, say the mural could not have come at a better time to reinvigorate a “community steeped in 80 years of art history.”

“This project allows us to be seen as a community that still engages with art and sees it as something important,” says Frances Guichard. “It allows our many community artists to be properly represented for generations to come.”

The project came to fruition under ComEd’s “Community of the Future” initiative. The initiative works to build neighborhoods where residents and businesses can “enjoy savings, sustainability, and innovative products that make their lives easier,” according to a ComEd news release.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) says the partnership between ComEd and Bronzeville residents shows the potential of the community.

“One word I’d use to describe Bronzeville is resilient. We’ve seen the good and the bad. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, but we’re surviving, and this mural speaks to that,” she says.