Updated: Friday, June 19, 4:18 p.m.
Almost immediately after Cincinnati City Council approved a plan to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on Plum Street outside of City Hall Wednesday, artists got to work on the privately funded project.
"The city (council) seeks to express its support for the Black Lives Matter movement by installing a street mural on Plum Street between Eighth Street and Ninth Street, raising public awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement," the city said during a Wednesday presentation. "The passage of the ordinance before you today authorizes the city manager to execute this effort with council adopting the message as its own speech."
The project is the brainchild of Alandes Powell, a former board chair of The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, who started a GoFundMe on June 15. In two days it raised more than $100,000 of its $150,000 goal.
The city is partnering with Black Art Speaks, ArtsWave and ArtWorks on the project. Private donations will be used to pay for the mural and the city manager said the only city expense will be staff time to facilitate the painting.
At Wednesday's council meeting, Member Wendell Young said he's proud of the council for approving the mural and called it a "gutsy" move. "There are a lot of people who think this is the wrong thing to do," Young said. "There are a lot of people who have not arrived at where we are."
Council Member Jeff Pastor said the mural will be nice, but added people are asking for more than symbolism. "There are people who have reached out that said 'murals are great, you know, but policies behind the murals are even better,' " Pastor said. "We have an issue in the city of Cincinnati that a mural is not going to be able to solve, and this is a first step."
Several other cities across the nation, including Washington, D.C., and Denver, Colo., have implemented such street murals, but none so far as intricate as Cincinnati's. Each letter of the mural has an assigned artist and a team of assistants to create a unique piece of artwork within the mural.
"The mural will talk about where we're going and how we'll get there," Powell said in a city release. The mural will end with an exclamation point created by 60-70 artists to show "our desire and hope of equality, nothing more and nothing less," she added.
The artwork is designed entirely by black artists.
The mural was complete by Friday, June 19, Juneteenth, with a dedication ceremony at 2 p.m.
On Friday, Powell called the mural a "bat signal."
"I think that's the only thing I can make everyone white and black connect with: Batman. You show a signal when you need help," she said.
For Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio CEO Eddie Koen, it was a bit more complicated.
"I have to say, as a black man this is a bit of a nuance for me because I am both prideful about what happened here over the last three days, and I'm also angry and upset," he said. "We've had so many covenants with America, whether it's civil rights; whether it's reparations that have been broken so many times over and over again. It's a new promise, there's a honeymoon phase, then there's an injury again and it starts over. So you have to appreciate both the pride and pain of this moment ... and what better people to illustrate that than artists?"
During the ceremony, Powell and a friend read a poem, written by Powell, which she said inspired her to do this project.
Earlier, artists were asked to lay on the letters they had designed so that a photo could be taken with a drone.
— Jason Whitman (@Jason_Whitman) June 19, 2020
See more photos of the mural in progress and after its completion by clicking the photo at the top of the story.