A new mural at 5131 W. Madison St., by artist Barrett Keithley to help promote a new Lyric Opera production.

A new mural at 5131 W. Madison St., by artist Barrett Keithley to help promote a new Lyric Opera production.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

With West Side mural, Barrett Keithley aims to reflect positive vibe from Black barber shops

“Whenever I walked in to a barber shop, there was an immediate sense of respect and positivity,” says the artist, who did the mural to promote a Lyric Opera production with a barber shop theme.

Barrett Keithley sees barber shops in the Black community as places to “get your news and meet your mentors,” places that “were and continue to be a real-life form of social media.”

Also, they’re “where you can be yourself,” says Keithley, 35, an artist who grew up in Morgan Park and remembers going to different barber shops as a kid.

“Whenever I walked in to a barber shop,” he says, “there was an immediate sense of respect and positivity.”

Keithley says that feeling is what he tried to convey with a mural he painted in November in the 5100 block of West Madison Street at Head Quarters Barber Academy and also near Adams Barber Shop.

Artist Barrett Keithley.

Artist Barrett Keithley.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

It features a boy’s face and fists protruding from a tilted crown.

“Hopefully, the message being received is that, no matter what color, no matter what person you are, if you have a dream, put your crown on, and go get it,” Keithley says. “It ties into the barber shops because, when you go to a barber shop, the barber is there to make you look good and feel good.”

The artist says he hopes to inspire the “same confidence.”

For Kevin McIntyre, Sr., chief executive officer of the barber academy, the person “in the mural is looking up to the sky and, as we all know, the sky is the limit. I think that everyone who looks at it will be able to take something from it.”

Keithley painted the mural to help promote a new Lyric Opera of Chicago production, “The Factotum,” that’s set in a Black barber shop on the South Side.

Keithley also painted two other murals — one in the 400 block of East 79th Street, next to a barber shop, and the other at Lake Street and Cicero Avenue — for the opera company.

Barrett Keithley did this mural in the 400 block of East 79th Street, next to a barber shop, to help promote a Lyric Opera of Chicago production.

Barrett Keithley did this mural in the 400 block of East 79th Street, next to a barber shop, to help promote a Lyric Opera of Chicago production.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Another mural by Barrett Keithley, this one near Lake Street and Cicero Avenue.

Another mural by Barrett Keithley, this one near Lake Street and Cicero Avenue.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

“Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I didn’t really see many murals, especially any on barber shops,” Keithley says. “To be able to put my artwork out and have it represent, you know, folks like me, it gives me a lot of joy.”

Chicago’s murals and mosaics sidebar

Chicago’s murals & mosaics


Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where and send a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

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

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