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After School Matters students add public art to Parkway Gardens

Teenagers living at Parkway Gardens will leave their mark this summer thanks to an upcoming onsite mural project in partnership with After School Matters. The project resulted in three colorful murals, which will soon be installed on South Martin Luther King Drive.

After School Matters’ #BeautifyYourCommunity mural program directed 10 high school students and a chaperone to create the murals collaboratively through technical skill development and teamwork, as well as providing them with trips to downtown Chicago. Art exercises conducted by program leaders in the first two weeks of the program helped teenagers gain the expertise and confidence needed to sketch, paint and complete the murals.

The three murals, titled “Positive Productivity,” were designed by local artist Erick “ROHO” Garcia to represent growth and optimism. “The silhouette of trees arranged throughout the design represent the beauty of nature,” Garcia wrote in his artistic statement, “and are symbols of individual growth as well as growth in the community.”

The Related Affordable Foundation supported the creation of “Positive Productivity” with a grant to After School Matters. After School Matters is a Chicago-based nonprofit whose mission is to help Chicago public high school students explore and develop their talents through safe and supportive activities outside of school. After School Matters programs include sports, STEM, journalism and career programming. The Related Affordable Foundation has also collaborated with After School Matters at Parkway Gardens on the Peacemakers program, which empowers Chicago students to fight violence and build community where they live by designing and carrying out service projects to meet their neighbors’ needs.

Parkway Gardens residents received a sneak preview of the murals at the End-of-Summer Celebration held on August 27. Along with the mural preview, residents enjoyed games, took advantage of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, and learned about After School Matters’ fall programs at Parkway Gardens.

The murals will be installed this fall.