Artists, volunteers transformed King College Prep’s halls with murals
With the help of the organization Chi Gives Back, they turned the walls of the South Side school into canvases filled with art.
The hallways and classrooms at Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School in North Kenwood looked a lot different when students returned April 19 for the first time this academic year.
Thanks to the work of a group of artists and about 100 volunteers one day in January, the walls at King College Prep in North Kenwood were now adorned with 15 new murals.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
The project was part of an annual service event led by the organization Chi Gives Back, which worked with the group Paint the City to transform the interior of the school at 4445 S. Drexel Blvd.
“We really want this project and all projects that we do to reflect the fact that kindness does reside in all of us, no matter what ZIP codes we come from,” says Chi Gives Back co-founder Kouri Marshall said. “We really want students to understand that it’s important to also pay it forward.”
Ahmad Lee, an artist who goes by Reco the Great, was among the artists who contributed to the mural project. He brought in Paint the City, for which he’s a board member.
Paint the City’s goal is to “paint every school in Chicago,” according to co-founders Missy Perkins and Barrett Keithley. They have six more schools lined up for similar projects.
Lee says that, beyond avoiding political statements, school administrators let the artists choose the designs they wanted. His artistic contribution was a work featuring a large jaguar — the school mascot — and an eagle.
“I kind of just go with whatever pops in my head, and the eagle, for some reason, came in my head,” says Lee, 34. “Everything else just kind of flowed from there.”
Lee, who calls his style “controlled chaos,” also included images of a pencil, the Chicago flag and a flower.
“There’s a lot of things going on, big images that are easily going to draw you in from afar,” he says. “When you come in closer, there’s smaller messages, patterns and little stuff that you’ll notice something different every time.”
Other creations include a mural filled with sunflowers and kids’ faces, the words “I have a dream” in graffiti-style letters and the words “Your only limit is you.”
King College Prep students were among the volunteer artists.
“I could literally tell that that’s going to push some of the art students to go bigger and better and also give back,” Lee says.