Local artist paints Black Lives Matter mural on boarded-up building

"I'm always really excited when I can turn what I have for a skills set towards things that I believe in, and this is something that I believe in strongly," - Patrick Hershberger

Businesses along the Kalamazoo Mall look barren behind boarded-up windows nearly two weeks after George Floyd’s death. The planks of wood protect windows from being smashed by looters, and some conceal windows with glass already shattered. 

Freelance Artist Patrick Hershberger decided to add a little color to the boards concealing the entrance of the Kalamazoo Epic Center. The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo asked him to create a mural that reflected our current times, and Hershberger could think of no better subject matter. Now, instead of a barren board, people that pass by the Epic Center see a large tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement in acrylic and spray paint. 

The message of the mural is straightforward. A person of color; half female, half male; gazes down at pedestrians with the montra of a movement printed above their head, “Black Lives Matter.” 

Black Lives Matter mural on a boarded-up Epic Center

“Art that is about a movement; about the environment, about civil rights; it needs to speak to people that only see it for a second,” Hershberger said. “This is Black Lives Matter, that’s it.”

Hershberger wants those who support the Black Lives Matter movement to look at his mural and feel a sense of comradery and acceptance. For those who do not support it, Hershberger wants them to feel pressured to stop turning a blind eye to racial injustice.

Though he fully supports protesters, Hershberger is furious with the response he has seen from the city. Citizens suffered because of the city's response, Hershberger said, and officials need to be held accountable.

“People need to hold on to this moment and they need to go to the voting booth with it,” Hershberger said.

If ‘professional muralist’ was a job title, that might be what we would call Hershberger. During the warmer months, Hershberger works actively in the Kalamazoo area to create street-art for local organizations and businesses.

It is always amazing to be given a chance to apply your skills set towards what you believe in, Hershberger said. Just as this local artist used his skills to turn something ugly into something beautiful, protesters continue to use their voices to turn tragedy into change.