AKRON, Ohio — During times of trouble and tension, there can also be moments of reflection and beauty.
That's exactly what is transpiring in Downtown Akron where several artists have created more than 20 murals to cover up the reminders of vandalism that took place along Main Street last July.
Downtown Akron Partnership in cooperation with downtown artists, businesses and property owners created the Engage Akron Window Art Project.
The Knight and GAR Foundations contributed more than $20,000 towards the project.
The effort was curated by a committee of Black artists who selected works that convey messages of hope and healing on boarded windows.
Some of the pieces were painted directly on the boards over windows waiting for repair. In some cases, original works were digitized for print on panels.
Artist Randi Mull created two eye-catching pieces that she calls "affirmation-infused artwork."
It includes words— painted in white— offering encouragement. Part of it reads, "You are loved. You are chosen. You are stronger than you know."
Mull said many people are stopping to read the messages and are touched by them.
"My work, I don't want to just be paint on the wall. I want it to be impactful to touch somebody's life," Mull said.
About a week after the deadly police-involved shooting of Jayland Walker in Akron, protestors shattered the windows and doors of several businesses.
Street Craftery, which had only been open for two days when the vandalism happened, was spared damage but the new business shut down for a few weeks because of unrest and curfews.
Owners Da'Shika A. Street and Andre Street wanted to do something to help the area heal.
Da'Shika suggested that artists "beautify the boards" with art and Downtown Akron Partnership jumped on the idea.
"It's just such a beautiful display at how you can take something even tragic and devastating and still make something beautiful from it," she said.
Da'Shika created colorful murals on boards covering broken windows at Cilantro restaurant and works created by Andre are now on boards at the former Bricco restaurant.
One of Andre's pieces is called "Mirror", which he feels is appropriate during the community's time of reflection.
"When something negative happens, we have to find a way to find ourselves. Find a way to see beauty in life," he said.
Since the shattered windows will be replaced, the murals will eventually come down, but the artists hope the artwork provides a lasting message.
"This is temporary, but what can happen to somebody's life can be permanent," Mull said.
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