Artists began another mural last week, adding color to Independence Avenue and Quincy on the west wall of Christine’s Place, a drop-in center for sex workers, and Relentless Pursuit, which works to end sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
The mural features a two-story monarch butterfly image surrounded by flowers to symbolize the migration and the transitions that victims of human trafficking experience.
“This theme is going to work with the new owners of this building, Relentless Pursuit,” said Rebecca Koop, Business and Community Events Director for the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. “They have a mission to stop human trafficking, crime, all those things that go along with that, and Christine’s Place, [Christine] was a prostitute here in the Northeast and is now a wonderful spokesperson letting people know about human trafficking and how it can devastate peoples lives.”
The mural is part of the Northeast Chamber’s summer mural program that they sponsor every year. The Chamber calls for artists in the area to present their concept drawings, and the best are chosen to add to the landscape of the historic corridor.
Northeast resident Zac Laman is one of two artists painting the mural this summer. He has created several other murals for the Chamber, and his work can be recognized across Kansas City and in the Crossroads.
“This’ll be my fourth one that I’ve done for them,” Laman said. “This is my neighborhood. I want to put up art in the neighborhood – I want to put my art up in my neighborhood.”
Laman’s other Northeast murals are representative of his community, as well. He painted one of three business women on Independence Avenue and one of a rooster, both on different sides of the Economic Growth Gallery at 2659 Independence Avenue.
“The rooster one, that came from the neighborhood,” Laman said. “It seemed like everyone around me had chickens, and my neighbors had roosters in their backyard. It was something inspired by the neighborhood.”
For Bethany Elliot, the second artist working on the mural, this is her first opportunity to paint a big mural, as she has previously created scenic painting for theaters.
“I just really enjoy the prompt of immigration and transformation,” Elliot said. “You want to make the environment what you want it to be. Making it bright colors and positivity makes people want to live their day to day lives in a more positive way. I think seeing this shows the community investing in its people, infrastructure.”
The summer mural program started five years ago by the Chamber with the goal of graffiti abatement in mind.
“We were trying to beat graffiti and different organizations were doing the same thing,” Koop said. “We encourage our businesses to cover it up, but I’m an artist myself, so I wanted to see art on top.”
The first part of the process is getting permission from the owners of the wall they hope to transform.
“We look for walls, we get permission from those owners, many of which are either Chamber members or they’re part of the Community Improvement District – or even if they’re not either one of those, we’ll talk to them and see if we can get permission for those walls,” Koop said.
The Chamber is in charge of all the logistics behind putting up a mural. Getting a lift, paying for the paint and paying the artists themselves, along with donations from board members.
“We’ve had one of our board members spray paint and do the base coat for the building off the BP station, the Express Stop,” Koop said, referring to the Express Stop located near Independence Avenue and Van Brunt Blvd.
She appreciates how the murals represent rebirth, rejuvenation, and beauty that people can interpret in many different ways.
“It makes an area feel welcoming, safe, it’s kind of like placemaking,” Koop said. “It makes this a cool place to be instead of a scary place to be.”