The mural painted on a wall outside apartments near Division Street and Springfield Avenue in Humboldt Park is different from most murals around Chicago in that it was designed and painted mostly by middle school students.
The youngest of them: sixth-graders. The oldest: high school freshmen.
The students did the mural through R City Print Shop, an organization that helps kids create art and learn entrepreneurial skills by silk-screening shirts and masks to sell.
Seven students met twice a week for about two months, completing the mural in November.
It touches on things that were on their minds. Like social justice and celebrities like Kobe Bryant who died young and unexpectedly.
Songiné Clarke, 30, a teacher who worked with them, describes the mural as “justice-oriented,” highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ rights with a large “BLM” across a rainbow backdrop.
Part of the mural features the names of Bryant, hip hop icons Juice WRLD and XXXTentacion and actor Cameron Boyce.
Jeffrey Swider-Peltz, 31, R City Print Shop’s lead instructor, looks at aspects of the mural like the anime characters it includes and the references to cultural icons and an image of an MP3 player with the song “Happier” by Marshmello and Bastille playing and says, “I’m, like, ‘Wow this is what our students visually look like as a mural.”
The wall that’s home to the mural is outside an apartment building where one of the student-artists lives.
“It’s a mural in their own neighborhood, so we were, like, ‘Hey, whatever’s on your mind, whatever’s happening, whatever you want to express to your neighborhood, feel free to do that,’ ” Swider-Peltz says.
He and Clarke started by having the students come up with their own ideas individually then discussing them as a group, deciding what to include. To form the design, they drew up the images they wanted on paper and moved them around like puzzle pieces to figure out how to make them fit.