New Art Project ‘Walls for Justice’ Helps Boarded-Up Stores Spread Positivity
This new public art initiative spreads beauty, but is also a way for business owners to express their solidarity with the community.
Living in Philly these last couple of weeks, there have been so many changes you see simply by walking around. From the removal of the Frank Rizzo statue and mural to storefronts being covered in plywood amid damage—the canvas of our city is currently one that announces its upheaval, hurt, and hope for a better future.
When the pandemic hit, and many stores boarded-up their windows as a precautionary measure, Mural Arts Philadelphia stepped in with the Storefront Artwork Initiative, highlighting local artists in place of the despair. But those boards have multiplied in the wake of last week’s riots that followed nationwide protests reacting to the murder of George Floyd, calling for an end to centuries of racial injustice and police brutality.
Broken windows can be fixed—broken hearts will take a lot more work, at every level, to enact meaningful change. This week as peaceful protests continue and our city rebuilds, artist Samuel Rodriguez decided to take the property damage and turn it into a way to inspire, communicate, and beautify the city. His new Walls for Justice initiative works with local businesses affected by the protests who wish to use their storefronts as canvases to support for the movement and spread messages of unity.
”I want to send a message to the community that we are all united,” Rodriguez tells us. “I want more and more people to get involved.”
The initiative spreads beauty, but is also a way for business owners to express their solidarity with the community. Artists collaborate with stores, letting them determine the messages they wish to have incorporated into their new murals—which are then painted free of charge by volunteers. Statements include support for Black Lives Matter, messages of love, inspirational quotes, and more. Our personal favorite so far is “Daddy Changed the World,” a quote from six-year-old Gianna Floyd about the movement sparked by her father’s tragic death.
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Once his supplies ran out, Rodriguez started a GoFundMe to pay for paint and supplies to keep these murals going.
To be involved, you don’t need to be a professional artist, or even an adult. All ages are welcome—though they tell us that they currently have more than enough artists and have had to limit the amount of volunteers at a particular site due to COVID-19 concerns. But they tell us that an even better way to help right now would be to spread the word to local businesses, asking if they will let Walls for Justice paint their plywood—and then more volunteer painter spots will open up, too!
If you are a local business interested in participating in Walls for Justice, reach out to organizer Samuel Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 215-500–4903.
Photograph by Laura Swartz.