Encouraging self-reflection through preserved protest art

CHICAGO -- Some of the artwork many people saw on the boarded-up windows of Chicago businesses over the summer, is making a comeback. This time, as a public art display on the streets of a northside neighborhood.

"It is a display of art from 20 artists, 10 of which are board-ups that were throughout the city as part of the art initiative, Paint the City," said Christina Pfitzinger, executive director of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

Along with Paint The City, the Chamber partnered with Urban Art Restart to create one of Chicago's newest public art exhibits - Reflections: An Edgewater Experience.

"I think this has been a really challenging time and so what we did this month is take the opportunity to give our businesses the chance to really share their voices," Pfitzinger said. "They're using their windows to provide a canvas to really talk about what everyone's been talking about this past year."

The artwork comments on topics like social injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of Breonna Taylor.

The artwork sits on several streets in the Edgewater neighborhood and can be found on this interactive map. Each art display also has a QR code that viewers can scan to learn more about the artist.

Although half of the exhibit came from preserved plywood paintings, the others are original works by artists like Natalia Virafuentes.

"I feel proud and happy that it's out there and people can see it and feel something from it," Virafuentes said. "For these pieces, it's a three-eye being and it's opening up people's minds to different things or putting their attention toward something."

Virafuentes' work can be seen in the windows of The Frontier, a space for the Jackalope Theatre Company.

"We've always been a group dedicated to getting as many perspectives and points of view about what it's like to live in America. Right now we feel like the Black Lives Matter movement and peaceful messaging in this artwork resonates with what we believe in," said Andrew Swanson, co-founder.

And even though the artwork isn't permanent, Pfitzinger said the sentiment is.

"You often just see the storefronts and you forget about the people behind them. This was a chance for them to actually put these faces forward, to stand up in front of their businesses and say 'I'm not only here, but I have a voice and I'm important'," she said.

The exhibit will be on display for the community until Oct. 31.