Michael Bushnell

Unveiled in October of 2021, commissioned by the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and painted by Bethany Elliot and Zac Laman, on the west facing wall of Relentless Pursuit Outreach Organization’s drop in center at Independence and Quincy Avenues, the “Butterfly Mural” depicts the transformation and migration that victims of human trafficking experience when they are freed from that bondage.

RPOR operates the center as 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.”

“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.”

The 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.

The Chamber commissioned the mural through its annual Summer Mural Program, a program launched roughly seven years ago with the simple goal of graffiti abatement. Since that time the program has grown exponentially, making the Historic Northeast community home to more murals per-capita than any other neighborhood in the Kansas City metro.

“It would still be just as beautiful somewhere else,” said Bobbi Baker, President and CEO of the Chamber. “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 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 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.”