6 new Black lives matter murals around kansas city


Anna Clauer

Slider photo by Abbie Davis.

Written by Abbie Davis and Anna Clauer.

On Sep. 5, 2020, six Black Lives Matter murals were painted on streets around the city. On Aug.6, the Kansas City Council voted 12 to one in favor of the murals being painted, granting the artists to close off the streets for a day to paint. These murals, placed in six different locations, were planned by local black artists, with each mural including a different theme specific to its site. 

For the mural painted near 18th and Vine, artist Adrianne Clayton designed the mural with piano keys along the bottom of the letters, mirroring the cultural and musical impact of the area. This is only the first phase of the project, which will eventually lead to six to 12 building murals later in the year. The designs were submitted and chosen through August. 

The fundraising was organized by the Troost Market Collective, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “creat[ing] equitable economic opportunity for creative entrepreneurs [and] inspiring future generations through innovative partnerships and programming.” Katie Mabry van Dieren, a Co-founder of the Troost Market Collective explains that through this organization comes “KC Art on the Block”- a project which is specifically responsible for the murals painted. She continues to display that “KC Art on the Block [is] just one of many creative place keeping programs we have dreamed up alongside the community.”

All of the money was dependent on individual donors, and none of it came from taxpayers. The total budget for this portion of the project was $12,000 to cover the supplies that were needed, including 1,200 gallons of paint over 2,000 feet of pavement. In total, over 1,000 volunteers came to hand paint the murals. In some cases, the murals that were started on Aug. 5 were unfinished due to delays from weather- rain in the morning, and extreme heat in the afternoon. Nevertheless, even more volunteers showed up the next day, to help finish the projects. 

After months of planning, the murals were finally ready to be started on Sept. 5th. In the 95 degree heat, people of all races, genders, and ages came together to create art that will go down in history. Each street had the same framework- the words “Black Lives Matter” in block letters, but each had completely different designs.

During the event, some streets had a DJ, blasting music created by black artists. Others had ice cream stands and barbecue. Even though each street was different, they all had the same motivation, and the power of community radiated throughout the whole city.

One mural, designed by Harold Smith at NW Briarcliff and N Mulberry Dr, features bright colors like pink, blue, and orange woven through each letter. Under the words “Black Lives Matter” is a quote said by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. that says “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Another mural, found at 31st and Troost was designed by local artist Micheal Toombs and uses mostly yellow with hints of black and red. Words are written inside many of the letters saying messages such as “vote,” “jazz,” and “king.” Other letters are filled with patterns and designs. 

Designed by local artist, Micheal Toombs, this mural features a display of messages with words such as “vote,” “Jazz,” and “king.” Photo by Anna Clauer

Some murals, such as the one at 63rd and Brookside Blvd, feature names of victims that are incredibly important to remember and recognize. Many included the Black Lives Matter fist somewhere in their design. Overall, these paintings bring attention to the ongoing movement for racial equality, and force people in Kansas City to recognize the continual racism throughout the city. 

Located at 63rd and Brookside Blvd, this mural contains the names of victims that initially gave the Black Lives Matter movement its mission for social justice. Photo by Anna Clauer.

Unfortunately, not everyone approves of the movement, and they did not think to appreciate the time and effort put into the artwork. One of the six murals was vandalised just days after the project was completed. The vandalised mural is found at the intersection of Northwest Briarcliff Parkway and North Mulberry Drive, where black tire marks and white paint splatters were streaked over the block letters. Hate can be expected, especially when it comes to projects whose message can be seen as controversial. 

With this hate comes the important message that, no matter how far we think we have come, racism and discrimination is still extremely normalized. On nearly every post about the murals, whether it was simply spreading the word, looking for volunteers, or news reports, the comment sections were flooded with hate speech. All of this response came from something as simple as art intended to spread love and positivity and with no funding from the Black Lives Matter organization. It’s crucial that we recognize how prevalent this harassment can be, and it has only become more clear how much work needs to be done in our Kansas City community to fight for racial justice. 

Though at times the hate can seem overwhelming, it is equally, if not more necessary to look at the good. In response to the vandalism, artist Harold Smith hopes that the vandalism will be seen as part of the art, rather than as destruction. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, he explained that “when they go low, we don’t just go high.” To him, the vandalism needs to be met “with an abundance of love, positivity, and community” to display that hate can’t stop a movement. 

Overall, positive reactions to the murals heavily outweighed the hatred. Hundreds of posts were put up on social media praising the efforts of all the artists, coordinators, and volunteers. People from near and far came to visit the murals and watch them during their creation. The hard work of each and every volunteer did not go unnoticed by the Kansas City public, and ultimately, we have six beautiful new murals throughout Kansas City.