Black Lives Matter: Listening through Art

photo by Michael Cottone

Last weekend’s protests and violence have seen many of Indy’s downtown retail storefronts and office buildings boarded up to prevent further damage. Immediately, several businesses saw the opportunity to use the boarded up windows as a way to bring attention to the atrocities committed against Black lives. Art has long been a powerful way to express ideas, process anger and grief, and bring people together to confront injustices. But any sincere dialogue, and real change, starts with listening.

To take this effort even further, St’ArtUp 317, the Arts Council of Indianapolis, and PATTERN are collaborating to bring local Black artists and Downtown business owners together to help our community listen and move forward. The goal is to support local business and property owners in hiring Black artists to express their perspectives and experiences via temporary murals on boarded-up buildings (or other formats) as a community canvas.

A special thank you to Mali Jeffers, Catherine Esselman, Kären Haley, and Stacia Murphy, and especially the Arts Council for their leadership in formalizing this program.

Below is the statement from The Arts Council and spells out the details of the program.

Funds are available through the Arts Council to support stipend payments to artists for temporary murals. 

We understand the murals/artworks may only stay on the building fronts for days, or a few weeks, before repairs are completed. But they will serve as an immediate platform for understanding and inspiration for longer-term community dialogue. As building repairs are conducted, we ask property/business owners to carefully remove any temporary artworks and contact us to store them for later display along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick or in other public locations. We also encourage property/business owners to create and share with the Arts Council photographic and video documentation of the process of creating the murals and the finished artworks. The artwork and documentation are important assets and artifacts of this moment in our history. It is our intention that this collaboration will evolve into semi-permanent and permanent works as well.

These are the guiding principles and recommended best practices for artists and building/property owners wanting to show their support through these artistic collaborations. These are also qualifying requirements for use of Arts Council funding. 

  • This collaboration specifically elevates Black life and experiences, featuring work created by Black artists. Artists may choose to directly reference Black Lives Matter, and may decide to include the words “Black Lives Matter” or #BlackLivesMatter.
  • Ideally the murals will take place on boarded-up storefront windows or similar locations using another format. The place-based nature of these works is significant.
  • The artwork must not have nudity or profanity, and must not violate the city’s signage ordinance. Imagery will avoid adding to the trauma Black people may already be suffering. The artists’ tipsheet will have more specifics.
  • We encourage free, uncensored artistic expression without pre-approval of a design.


  • Businesses and property owners who are supportive of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, and who are eager to allow local Black artists to create murals on their boarded storefronts (or another format). Artists’ fees will be paid by the Arts Council (based on availability – current funds will support 10-15 works).
  • Black artists who wish to use the boarded-up storefronts as canvases for murals highlighting the Black experience, which could include, as the artists choose, the themes, concerns, and priorities of Black Lives Matter. Murals will avoid profanity and nudity.


  • We will help interested property/business owners connect with Black artists. If requested, we will match artists and businesses together and/or support project facilitation in a way that works for the site and the artist.
  • The Arts Council will provide $250-$500 to the artist working on the mural. We encourage property/business owners to provide additional funds to the artist as they are able. Funds are currently available to support 10-15 murals.
  • We will provide a tipsheet to help artists work in public.
  • Upon request, we can provide volunteers to assist artists onsite. We can also supply documentation to present to anyone who questions the artists’ permission to do what they’re doing.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Artists: contact Julia Moore, or (317) 332-8382 Businesses/Property Owners: contact Catherine Esselman, Other options–including referrals to artists for more long-term commissions or art purchases–are possible if this format is not appropriate for your location. 

Property and business owners: Visit this link to request a mural.

Artists: We are working from a comprehensive list of artists who have previously responded to similar requests or have indicated interest and/or support via social media. If you want to confirm your interest, please use this link.

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