AFA Chicago Update: Mural Project

Libby Elementary is a K-12 school on the south side of Chicago, in a tough, economically depressed neighborhood.  The neighborhood surrounding Libby is one of rough edges; struggling storefronts, gang-related graffiti, homes and apartment buildings in disrepair, or abandoned altogether.

Libby’s wonderful and enthusiastic art teacher, Mr. Art Helbig, has been on a ‘beautification’ mission since coming to the school.  He started with his own classroom, sprucing and painting – then moved outwards.   He planted flowers and shrubs on school grounds, and started a garden which students help maintain.

Mural Wall

"That empty wall" at Libby Elementary

Next, Mr. Helbig wanted to tackle ‘that empty wall’ – a large brick wall on the outside of the building, which all too often had been the target of gang graffiti.  (In neighborhoods such as these, it is extremely uncommon for a beautiful mural to be tagged with graffiti).  Having no experience himself with creating an outdoor mural, Mr. Helbig contacted Communities in Schools/ Chicago for help.   And CISC, in turn, contacted Arts For All /Chicago for help!

AFA/Chicago has agreed to take on the project, and we are currently in the planning and fundraising stages.   We are interviewing Muralist candidates, hashing out a preliminary budget, and working closely with Mr. Helbig to convene the perfect group of 6th Graders.  Our goal is, by the end of September, we’ll have a Muralist/ Teaching Artist in the school 2 afternoons a week!   They will begin with a few drawing / sketching workshops; then move on to deciding together the theme and subject matter, of the mural.  At that point, the Teaching Artist will compile everyone’s input, and sketch the mural onto the wall; and lastly, the students will assist the TA with the final painting/ implementation phase!

This is a very exciting project; we’ll be updating you periodically with pictures and reports, as the Mural comes to life!

To donate to this particular project, please contact Cara Winter at

“I believe that creativity will be the currency of the 21st century.”

Gerald Gordon, Ph.D., President/CEO, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

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