Chicago Debates mural makes a splash

This past school year, nearly 1,000 CPS students participated in 47 tournaments hosted by Chicago Debates.

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Chicago Debates is displaying a mural along the Kennedy Expressway to increase awareness of the program.

Chicago Debates is displaying a mural along the Kennedy Expressway to increase awareness of the program.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Chicago Debates doesn’t want to be the city’s “best-kept nonprofit secret” anymore. With a mural unveiled Tuesday, the after-school debate program is set to catch the curiosity of motorists on the Kennedy Expressway.

The mural features colorful speech bubbles emanating from four podiums. Each podium displays a red star of the Chicago flag on its front. Words like “career,” “critical thinking,” “listening,” “reasoning,” and “leadership” fill the speech bubbles above the podiums.

The mural, unveiled Tuesday at 1735 N. Ashland Ave., is set to be displayed until June 30. Through the support of its decadelong partnership with Wintrust Bank, Chicago Debates hopes the mural will amplify public awareness about its programs and efforts.

“We have long been Chicago’s best-kept nonprofit secret, but we don’t want to be. Actually, we can’t be if we’re going to serve thousands of students across Chicago,” said Toinette Gunn, Chicago Debates’ executive director.

Local business and civic leaders launched Chicago Debates in 1995 hoping to bring the power of debate to Chicago Public School students. 

This past school year, nearly 1,000 CPS students participated in 47 tournaments hosted by Chicago Debates.

Cindy Stuyvesant, Chicago Debates board member and Wintrust assistant general counsel, emphasized the importance of having intellectually stimulating extra-curricular activities available to Chicago Public Schools students.

“Chicago Debates creates self-advocates who are able to articulate ‘the why,’” said Stuyvesant.

The mural proved a challenge to the Wintrust design team who were tasked to depict the power of debate through art. Two years later, the mural made its debut to Chicago residents and commuters.

“We are overly pleased with the finished product and are so grateful to Wintrust for their unwavering support and commitment to Chicago youth,” Gunn said. “We hope the mural communicates the transformative power of the debate and captures the ability of one’s voice to enact change.”

“Chicago Debates is a shining star in the Chicago Public Schools System. We help students develop critical skills that are going to help them become leaders in their communities,” said David Nadig, board chair at Chicago Debates. “People think of us as a small organization but the impact that we have on students' lives is so significant.”

Students interested in the program or those hoping to donate can visit ChicagoDebates.org.

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

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