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New Mural Features The Cocoon Of Conversations

Injustices to the Black community have gripped the nation for many months now. The creators of a new mural on Bloomington’s west side say they hope it will permanently remind people to continue the dialogue around racial injustice.

“This matters. This is a significant point in our history not just as a country, but across the world,” said mural artist Bruce Clark. “Unlike any other flashpoint of police brutality, this has incited the entire globe to have the conversation around race.”

Bruce Clark standing in front of mural
Credit Emily Bollinger / WGLT
Artist Bruce Clark speaks at the dedication of a mural he painted at 724 W. Washington St., Bloomington.

Clark put more than 20 hours into the visual part of the mural. He made the artististic choice to make George Floyd the backdrop of the mural and paint him in with the navy blue, dark night that Clark said symbolizes racial injustices and pain those in the Black community face. Around Floyd is a constellation of conversations youth from the Bloomington-Normal Boys and Girls Club have had about inequality and discrimination. A girl and a boy speak in a cocoon shape around Floyd’s face. 

“There is a clear connection between the poem and the art, and all of this is inspired by the desire of a group of young people, that would otherwise be overlooked by society, to have a voice and have that voice be recognized,” said Clark. 

Illinois Wesleyan University student and poet Yovana Milosevic worked with her professor and Deborah Halperin, board president of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP), on a poetry workshop. Halperin said the workshop captures the conversations being had by children younger than 12.

“Everyone should write, read and listen to poetry, and what more important time than in this global pandemic to use poetry as a way to connect,” said Halperin. “I hope that the kids are moved by it as everyone else, and I want them to feel important and to remember their voice will be heard.” 

Halperin said Milosevic created a master poem that comprised all the feelings of 2020 that weigh on the local youth. WBRP, the Boys and Girls Club, and NAACP representatives dedicated the mural Monday on Allin Street between Washington and Front streets.

This program was supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, the McLean County Arts Center, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Some parents have found it difficult to explain the protests of the spring and summer. Mural backers said the social justice narrative in the mural might be easier to access. Clark said he visited his mom in Minnesota, where he took his children to view the sacred space dedicated to Floyd. Clark said he needs his children to understand the police killing of Floyd actually happened, and poetry and art are responses to Floyd’s death. 

“My mom was scared for me, personally, that I was going to be attacked or my mural incite rioting, which is not even close to the case,” said Clark. “The question of whether to put George Floyd’s face in the mural was brought up, and there was hesitancy from other individuals because we know that image is a flashpoint for a lot of people better or worse.”

Clark defended Floyd’s face because he said he wanted to leave the impact of his death in the children's voices that are embodied in the poem. The poem was brought to Clark and he created the visual around the children’s feelings.

“They’re not just voicing something they heard somebody else say,” said Clark. “The other George Floyd murals make him the focus, and I wanted to create a situation where Floyd is the backdrop for a different conversation.”

Milosevic worked with the students, who made their own poems and she simply put it all together. She said children of all races talked about Floyd, the pandemic, riots and all the things adults think about. 

“They were mentioning social justice,” said Milosevic. “There was a lot that they had to say. I think we tend to underestimate them. They’re not thinking about the things we’re thinking about, but they definitely were.” 

Milosevic said it was difficult to watch, but through poetry they were able to get their feelings out on paper. 

“Hopefully, it’s (the mural) a turning point for racial injustice that has been plaguing this country for a long time. I think putting it on a wall should remind us every time that we go by, that we have work to do,” said Halperin. 

She hopes kids in the community are moved by the mural as much as everyone else. She also wants them to feel important and to remember their voices will be heard. The goal of the dedication is to listen to youth and to inspire the community to keep moving forward.

“The poem is called, 'Holding On To Each Other.' There’s a lot of expression of dreams, desires and goals, and those things are suggestive of a future beyond today,” said Clark. “I wanted those to have a vibrancy on top of the night time backdrop.” 

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