Indelible Images, Infinite Impact

Safe & Peaceful grantee uses decorative arts as a conduit for relationship-building built on peaceful connection.

Harlan Community Academy junior ShaQuia Carmona and her classmates spent their Saturdays working to complete two murals, the newest additions to a series of projects now dotting Harlan’s hallways.

The murals — music-themed silhouettes of students in mosaic and gesso — were officially unveiled at the school’s curriculum night, and Carmona is excited that she got to contribute to her school in such a tangible way.

“It’s kind of monumental for us because we’re going to actually be a part of Harlan’s history: We’re not just going to be a class, we’re going to actually be a part of the school,” she says.

Steve Weaver, executive director of Chicago Public Art Group, understands and affirms the salience of “having a piece of your art on the wall” that Carmona articulated. He and his team have been working at Harlan for the past two years, and through art, he believes that they’ve offered students a new dimension to define and express their identity. “I think art helps you think about what is important, and it helps to humanize,” he says.

Local mural artist Marcos Raya attended the unveiling, commenting that the murals have helped to transform the look and feel of the halls. Raya shared that murals like this, along with others around the city, have a unifying effect on their communities. “It helps create a consciousness of unity among the people, makes a collective dialogue,” Raya says.

Through funding like the Safe and Peaceful Communities grant, Harlan has been able to sustain these projects that improve the environment for both students and the surrounding community.

“It’s really great — even though the dollar amount is not huge, it really does make a difference. It’s been a real resource for us to be able to expand the work we do, it allows us to partner and work in neighborhoods where we may not be able to work [otherwise],” Weaver says.

“It’s about a sense of connection to the school, and to the community — the process of art-making cultivates trust, and that results in more peaceful neighborhoods,” Weaver adds.

This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.