We’re thrilled to announce the grand unveiling of a brand-new mural by Chicago-based artist Barrett Keithley on the West side of the Kehrein Center for the Arts. We hope you can join us next week at a mural unveiling and press conference event on Wednesday, September 13th, at 9am, attended by Orbert Davis, Barrett Keithley, Chicago Poet Laureate avery r. young, Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, Kehrein Center Board of Directors member Reesheda N. Graham Washington, and more.
Chicago artist Barrett Keithley was selected to help the Kehrein Center create public art to showcase the beauty and brilliance of the Austin neighborhood. The mural Keithley created depicts a smiling young Black man and woman, holding up their hands as if they are “directing an orchestra - and also as if they are inviting people in,” said muralist Barrett Keithley.
“In a lot of Black neighborhoods you don’t get a chance to see your face on images or art that represents you, that is magnified," Keithley said. "For me, it’s important for any ethnic people to see themselves in beauty. That awakens your brilliance. That’s what I have always wanted to do, to show people that you’re big and you’re beautiful,” said Keithley.
Keithley worked on the mural over the course of a month, mostly at night. He said that he likes to work at night on murals, because it helps him “get more connected with the neighborhood.” Additionally, working at night guarantees fewer interruptions, and, said Keithley, “I can get into a zone when I can escape. I can lose myself in the peace.”
Keithley grew up on the South Side of Chicago in Morgan Park, in the area known as the “Wild 100s” which suffered from notorious violence in the 1990s and 2000s. A self-taught artist with a great love of writing and poetry, at age 21, Keithley began to take his work more seriously and slowly began to professionalize his business. Through his experiences as an emerging artist and entrepreneur, he recognized the need for a greater network of support for artists of color in Chicago.
In 2020, partially in response to the police killing of George Floyd, he founded a non-profit called Paint The City, which offers a platform for emerging artists. Keithley said that once people find the courage to call themselves an artist, Paint The City is there to help them establish connections in the art world, and have a platform to grow.
“I believe in getting to grow with the people next to you,” Keithley said.
Keithley’s mural is the work of three years’ planning for the Kehrein Center. The installation of public art in a space that cultivates the creativity of the West side has been an important step in increasing visibility, and creating a more beautiful community.
“Public art is important. It’s about place-making and being able to honor communities you are from, communities within the city,” Keithley said. “Public art can become the opening to a new way of thinking, a greater understanding of life,” Keithley said.
You can learn more about Barrett Keithley’s non-profit Paint The City at: www.paintthecity.net & follow him on Instagram @BKEEZY & @paint.thecity.