Children play in front of a recently completed Peace Mural at 63rd Street and Wallace Avenue on Chicago's South Side. [Photo by Grace Donnelly]

The peace mural was designed with pieces of materials broken and placed into colorful mosaics. But the focus of the three dozen people attending a recent dedication of the newly installed mural in Englewood was not on fragments but on a neighborhood coming together.

“We are bringing two communities together today,” Catonya Withers told the group gathered at a viaduct at 63rd Street and Wallace Avenue on Saturday,” so why not come out and celebrate?”

Withers was designated a mother ambassador of peace by the EarthHeart Foundation, one of the groups that spearheaded the mural. The designation aims to “honor and empower mothers as peace builders and change-leaders,” according to the EarthHeart Foundation website. 

A festive atmosphere with purple balloons and dance music welcomed community members to the official unveiling of the mural, which took about a month to create. It was paid for through a Kickstarter campaign launched by the EarthHeart Foundation and the Green Star Movement.

Willie B. Cochran, alderman of the 20th Ward, where the mural stands, said its completion marked a high point for the neighborhood. He noted other signs of progress nearby, including a new Whole Foods Market.

“It is a defining moment in the history of Englewood,” Cochran said. “We have been working on this for about 6 months, and had to pull $35,000 together to pull this off. The impact [of the peace mural] has made us very proud.” 

Neighborhood residents celebrated by dancing and taking photos in front of the new addition to their community. Children and adults proudly pointed to parts of the mural where they had contributed.  

“In comparison to other Green Star projects, this was special because it was not just us, it was the EarthHeart Foundation and schools who came as a group to help. There are probably 500 hands on this wall. We are hoping for this to be a positive push in the right direction.” said Kamelia Hristeva, the founder and CEO of the Green Star Movement, a non-profit organization that inspires students and community members to create public art. 

Bryant Jones, a local artist and Englewood resident, was walking down 63rd Street in September when he came across people working on the mural. Jones asked what was going on, and the next thing he knew, he was helping out. 

“This is needed; the community is thirsty for help,” Jones said. “This kind of project helps integrate children, fathers, and mothers and shows them they can do something positive. “For so long, we did not have a community and you feel just a little bit better that you did something to help form one…This is something I put my heart into…and it will last forever.” 

Antwan Barner, 20, who lives in Englewood, did not help make the mural, but came to see the final product with his sister and mother.

“I think this can bring a change to the community,” he said. 

Tenesha Barner, Antwan’s mother, said projects like the mural creation can bring families and the community together. “This was a good opportunity for me and my kids to do something together on the weekend,” she said.

Withers hopes more neighborhood residents will participate in similar events in the future. “This was a good start,” she said, “but I am hoping the next project can be deeper into the neighborhood and get more members of the community involved.”

Another mural will be unveiled in Englewood on Friday, October 14, at the Stagg Elementary School at 7424 S. Morgan Street.

Grace Donnelly

Grace is a photojournalism fellow at The Chicago Reporter.