More than 100 Evanston residents gathered Monday, Jan. 17, for the unveiling of “Resolved,” a mural at 600 Washington St. created by artist Ben Blount.
Completed in November, “Resolved” had a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Blount, who grew up in Detroit, said his mother, Joan Blount, along with his uncle and grandparents were Evanston residents. His mother attended Foster School and Haven Middle School. His uncle was an athletic star at Evanston Township High School and his grandmother owned a business in the 5th Ward.
Blount received his Master in Fine Arts at Columbia College in Chicago in interdisciplinary book and paper arts and his specialty is typography and bookbinding. “Resolved” was his first mural.
Blount told the RoundTable that the mural was initially going to be a Black Lives Matter piece that mirrored the Black Lives shirts he sells on his website. After some discussion, the plan shifted toward a 2019 resolution adopted by the City Council committing the city to ending structural racism and achieving racial equity.
“The idea was that the resolution makes all of these statements, and then you take the verbs from those statements and talk about the actions that Evanston will take,” Blount said.
The 2019 resolution was introduced by 9th Ward Council member Cicely Fleming, a close friend of the artist. Fleming said at the mural unveiling that she had hoped “a lot more” would have been accomplished in the 1½ years since the adoption of the resolution.
“I wrote this resolution, not because I thought it was profound or meaningful or really brilliant; I was trying to set a tone for the then-City Council, for us to really make a public commitment that would hopefully lead us to action,” she said.
“I would love to tell you how much we have done since this resolution has been written, but it would be untruthful of me. I will tell you in writing this resolution, it passed unanimously but it was not supported unanimously.”
Fleming recently announced she will be stepping down from her seat, citing the death of her mother, Marsha Cole, as a key factor in her decision. Regardless of her position in the city, Fleming said she will not stop from advocating for racial equity.
“I am leaving the City Council, but I keep going in the fight for Black freedom, that’s who I am,” she said. “I will not do it in that body. I will do it for the remaining time I am in Evanston, but I hope you all will do it forever. I hope that living next to Black people is not enough. I hope that having kids that are Black in school is not enough. I hope that you truly dig down to see what you can do to make sure Black people in this town feel welcomed.”
Larry Murphy, a professor emeritus at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston and co-owner of YoFresh Cafe, spoke as a merchant of the Main-Dempster Mile.
“It’s commendatory that you choose this form, rather than promoting King Day sales and promotions amongst the Main-Dempster Mile merchants, but instead opted for a substantive, fitting tribute to the man and his legacy to us,” he said.
Murphy said the mural does not take part in “MEGA” – Make Evanston Great Again – by recalling a false former time when racism was not present in the community. He referenced Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., and how that type of artwork cannot be ignored.
“[The mural] does not look back to an unsullied, idyllic past where things were good and we were some exemplary icon of greatness,” he said. “Instead, it forthrightly acknowledges the shame of the city’s racial past and commits to striving forward toward a future that is different, that indeed represents what our better selves would have us to be.”
Mayor Daniel Biss also spoke to the crowd, citing his enjoyment of the piece and stating his commitment to ending systemic racism in the city.
“Here is what I love about this; it is not always so difficult to say the right words,” Biss said. “It can be much more difficult and significant to turn those words every single day into the actions they’re supposed to represent. The words on this mural mean everything if they’re acted on properly and can become quite empty if they’re just words. I am delighted with what we are dedicating today. I am especially committed to making sure we live up to those ideals that we have stated all of the time and lived up to only some of the time.”
In an interview before the unveiling, Blount said he used the typeface Changa One, by Eduardo Tunni, for the mural.
“I wanted something big and bold. I didn’t want Helvetica, which everyone has seen before and is a little too generic. I wanted something with a little personality to it, but something bold. So I looked around and found this face.”
His biggest challenge was figuring out how to paint a mural. “Thankfully I got lots of help from Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris from Evanston Mural Arts Program, who donated their time.”
And Evanston muralist Daniel Burnett put it on the wall. “He was kind of the captain of this project as far as helping us get it on the wall. He did most of the painting.”
Blount said he hopes people walking by are inspired to make change in their community.
“Hopefully these words are inspiration and light a fire under people, getting people angry, getting people to think more deeply. Hopefully it’s a sign or a beckon to people,” he said.
For 13-year-old Jada McCannon, that’s just what it was. Jada, a seventh-grader at Pope John XXIII School, was at the unveiling with her parents. She was recording the event for a class project on Black History Month.
“I love the mural,” Jada said. “It is empowering and important. Obviously, like everyone said, there is a lot more to do but this is a good step that people can see every day.”
Incredible and beautiful ceremony. Perfect for MLK Day
I used to live in Evanston and know that corner well — what a gift to the community this is. Thanks to Ben Blount for seeing and saying and showing these words.
Don’t know what the resolution said, can’t see the mural or what it says, and I have no idea where the mural is located. Someone forgot the ABCs of reporting here.
Hi Lucy, the location of the mural is stated in the first paragraph, 600 Washington St. There is a photo included of the mural at the very top that shows what it says and the resolution is explained and hyperlinked in paragraph five. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
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