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Grand Unveiling of Mural “Everybody’s Welcome” Honored Black Artists and Austin Community

Barrett Keithley, muralist, speaks at the press conference and mural unveiling on September 13, 2023.

The mural unveiling and conversation with artists included muralist Barrett Keithley, Poet Laureate avery r. young, State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, and Orbert Davis of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic

(Chicago, IL) On Wednesday, September 13th, the Kehrein Center for the Arts hosted an unveiling ceremony for a new mural titled “Everybody’s Welcome” created by Chicago-based artist Barrett Keithley. The mural shows two smiling Black creatives, holding up their arms as if they are “directing an orchestra, and also as if they are inviting people in,” said Keithley.

“In a lot of Black neighborhoods you don’t get a chance to see your face on images or art that represents you, that is magnified. For me, it’s important for any ethnic people to see themselves in beauty. That awakens your brilliance. That’s what I have always wanted to do, to show people that you’re big and you’re beautiful,” said Keithley.

Poet Laureate of Chicago avery r. young wrote an original poem based upon Keithley’s mural, and performed it at the press conference. Drawing on Keithley’s creation, young’s poem is also titled, “everybody’s welcome.”

The grand unveiling! Orbert Davis can be heard playing trumpet in the background.

The Kehrein Center opened in the spring of 2019, after the completion of a $5 million renovation project to the theater connected to Catalyst Circle Rock primary and middle school. In the summer of 2022, the Kehrein Center became an independent foundation, with core values dedicated to providing a place for community edification, entrepreneurial sustainability, human expression, and educational incubation to the Austin and greater West side community.

“I see the core values of the Kehrein Center fostering growth, economic development, relationships, community, and love within and beyond the Greater West Side,” said Reesheda N. Graham Washington, a member of the Board of Directors at the Kehrein Center, and emcee of the press conference. “The intentionality with which the Kehrein Center creates programs and partnerships with an emphasis on community engagement helps to ensure that what we have to offer will respond to the expressed felt needs of the community. The mural serves as a visual manifestation and reminder of that commitment,” said Graham Washington.

Reesheda N. Graham Washington, Kehrein Center Board of Directors member, speaks at the press conference.

Rooted in the Austin Neighborhood, and City of Chicago, the Kehrein Center received $1 million in funding from the City of Chicago via its Neighborhood Opportunity Fund a few years ago. The Kehrein Center has also received a number of grants from the city and state, including a recent $20,000 grant through the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and a number of grants through the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

The Kehrein Center has partnered with a number of prominent arts organizations on programming, including Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play music education program, and the Global Music Series with Old Town School of Folk Music’s Music Moves Chicago program. The Kehrein Center has hosted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Chicago Lyric Opera, to name just a few.

Orbert Davis of Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra speaks at the Sept 13 press conference.

“As the Chairman of the Museum, Arts, and Cultural Enhancements here in Illinois, I am excited and encouraged when I see the work of artists like Barrett Keithley celebrated in historic moments like today,” said Camille Lilly, State Representative for the 78th district. “I am so very proud of the Kehrein Center for the Arts, and their Board of Directors, who have centered their core values based upon what the local community has said they want in a performing arts center. It is wonderful to come together to celebrate this new mural unveiling, which has already added so much beauty to the Austin community. Congratulations to all!”

The Kehrein Center has already had a big impact on the local economy. According to a study by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and New America, in the twelve months after the Kehrein Center’s opening, spending in the Austin census tract where the center is located increased by 20%. And, due to the increase in traffic from big-name events, spending in the community by visitors traveling from between 10 to 50 miles to Austin increased by 24%. The Kehrein Center has proved to be a hub of creativity, and abundance in Austin.

State Representative La Shawn K. Ford speaks at the Mural Unveiling on September 13.

"The mural celebrating Black culture created by artist Barrett Keithley and the Kehrein Center for the Arts aims to showcase the happiness and joy of Black people,” said State Representative for the 8th district, La Shawn K. Ford. “It's a beautiful representation of the vibrant spirit and positivity within the Black community. I hope this mural brings a sense of pride and inspiration to everyone who views it."

A conversation with artists followed the press conference, moderated by Angel Idowu, from WTTW. Fellow artists Blake Lenoir and Brenda Dickerson, who helped Keithley with the mural, participated in the conversation, along with Graham Washington. Principal of Catalyst Circle Rock (and member of the Board of Directors of the Kehrein Center) Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn also participated in the conversation with artists. Catalyst Circle Rock heavily partners with the Kehrein Center, and much of the programming benefits the students who attend the school.

Chicago Poet Laureate avery r. young (right) performs his original work "everybody's welcome" and "county dr_____ ft." Justin Dillard on keys & Mekeba Malik of Deeply Rooted Dance

A conversation with artists followed the press conference, moderated by Angel Idowu, from WTTW (left.) Fellow artists Blake Lenoir and Brenda Dickerson, who helped Keithley with the mural, participated in the conversation, along with Graham Washington.

"Everybody's Welcome" by muralist Barrett Keithley

press release by Sophie Vodvarka


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