Elgin's Black Lives Matter film will document peaceful protest, permanent mural

  • Elgin businesses that boarded up in preparation for Black Lives Matter protests last summer ended up having no cause for concern as no rioting was involved in the city's marches.

    Elgin businesses that boarded up in preparation for Black Lives Matter protests last summer ended up having no cause for concern as no rioting was involved in the city's marches. Courtesy of City of Elgin

 
 
Updated 12/4/2020 9:04 PM

Through the thoughts of business owners who boarded up their establishments, the police who prepared for riots that never happened, and the activists who organized the peaceful marches, Elgin's involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement will be documented on film throughout 2021.

First announced during 2021 budget deliberations, details of the 30-minute documentary and accompanying mural project emerged this week. Amanda Harris, who manages the city's Hemmens Cultural Center, told the city's Heritage Commission the "Making Space: A Mural and Documentary Project" will document the recent past and serve as a launching point to continue the community discussion on race and equality.

 

"There was no damage," Harris said of the example Elgin set for such protests. "There was no looting. Some of the downtown businesses did board up their businesses preemptively. Within 24 to 48 hours, the community had put artwork on those boards. They were decorated with these wonderful images and powerful messages."

Many of the boards were collected and preserved after being removed from the shops. The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission will soon release a call for experienced artists who can take inspiration from those preserved boards to create a new, permanent mural in the downtown pocket park.

The documentary will also follow the creation of the mural. The mural will be crafted in a paint-by-numbers fashion that will allow community members to contribute to its formation as part of the city's Juneteenth weekend.

"The community has an opportunity to really take ownership of the art that is in their town," Harris said.

That includes the placement of three 4-by-4-foot blank canvas blocks throughout the city. The blocks will have a prompt on them inviting residents to use them as "a place to express what is happening in their world in relation to the (Black Lives Matter) movement," Harris said. The blocks will be documented in the film, and each subsequent year, a clean slate of blocks will allow future thoughts to be recorded.

The entire effort has a $45,000 budget. Harris hopes to finance that total with a mix of grants, donations and the sale of shirts that will have images of the artwork from the boarded-up businesses. The project will scale up or down depending on the results of the fundraising. Money collected will also be used for scholarships.

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