The Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce proudly showed off a new mural painted by Bethany Elliot and Zac Laman, holding a celebration at Quincy and Independence Avenues on October 9 in front of the mural.
The mural was painted on the west facing wall of Christine’s Place at 5106 Independence Avenue. Christine’s Place is a safe haven and a drop-in center for prostituted women in partnership with Relentless Pursuit, which works to end sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
“It means more with the building that it’s on and what this building represents,” Laman said. “What it means to our neighborhood, trying to help women get off the street and get them out when they want it, if they want it, support and help people get off drugs and all that… I think the building, really, is what people should look at and it was important, more so than the mural.”
The Chamber commissioned the mural through its annual Summer Mural Program, a program started five years ago with the goal of graffiti abatement. The Chamber is in charge of every aspect of the mural’s completion, from renting any equipment needed, paying for artists and paint, and securing permission from the property owner where the work is commissioned.
“I think that they can learn that it’s up to us to grow our community, it’s up to us to make our community beautiful,” Elliot said. “It’s not just big companies or anything like that, like I really do feel like it’s the individual who’s supporting each other and helping each other grow.”
Christine’s Place has had 3,200 visits since it opened in December 2020.
“Location, location, location. This is the perfect location,” said Rebecca Koop, Business and Community Events Director for the Chamber. “It’s got great visibility, and it’s on the right building for the right people with Relentless Pursuit, and Christine’s Place. It was really meant to be here, and it does represent the ladies’ transition.”
Christine McDonald, for whom Christine’s Place is named, expressed her connection to the mural and the impact that this mural has for Christine’s Place, along with the mission that Christine and Relentless Pursuit have for the Historic Northeast Community.
“I spent 17 years on prostituting, getting arrested and causing chaos and havoc in our community,” McDonald said. “Now today I have been transformed by God’s grace and loving hands and caring people that guided me and molded me. Christine’s Place represents something that I wish we would have had. We weren’t visible to so much of society. As of today, we’ve served 285 different individual women that are currently being exploited, here in the Northeast community.”
The new mural depicts the transformation and migration that victims of human trafficking experience when they’re freed. The entire mural is covered by flowers being held – all surrounding a two-story monarch butterfly.
“We really felt that this mural was perfect for this building and the mission of Christine’s Place,” said Bobbi Baker, President and CEO of the Chamber. “It would still be just as beautiful somewhere else, but with the true meaning of transformation, it would not be translated in another location the same way as it can be right here.”
The celebration also included face painting by Northeast High School art students, chalking the streets, big soap bubbles for kids, and a live puppet theatre stage performance of Down the Drain by the StoneLion Puppets. E3 Ranch from Fort Scott, Kan., was also on hand and grilled up cheeseburgers.
“I think it’s beautiful. It brings out the beauty in what’s happening around, especially in the world we live in, and brings out the beauty in it,” said Adela, a Northeast High School student who attended the event. “I’d call it equal, beauty and life, and maybe like starting over.”
The mural represents the community to many people, showing the transformation and steps taking place to make the neighborhood safe and welcoming for all.
“The whole butterfly theme we’ve taken on this year is about transitioning, and we know that the monarch butterfly does that,” Koop added. “And also, it touches on immigration. You know, these butterflies go a long way from Mexico to the United States almost up to Canada, over several generations of butterflies. So it kind of represents our community as a whole.”