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KC muralist covers boarded up church walls with murals

Community Christian Church
Community Christian Church
Posted at 10:13 AM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 11:13:40-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Graffiti covered up parts of The Community Christian Church after day three of protests.

When senior minister, Rev. Shanna Steitz saw what unfolded at her church, she said it made it very personal.

"On the night when things really got chaotic here in front of the building, it was if no one felt safe here," Steitz said. "The police didn't feel safe, the protesters didn't feel safe, even some of our media partners didn't feel safe, and that really was sad for me cause we try and make this a safe place for everyone."

Concerns of damage prompted a patchwork of plywood.

"We had to put up plywood on the 46th Street side because all of the glass on the 46th Street side was damaged,"Steitz said. "And then we put up the glass that led directly up to our office space in part because it is not safety glass. Like much of the other glass, it is original to the building, original Frank Loyd Wright's original design from 1941."

Steitz said while they wanted to protect the historical aspects of the building, the boarded-up windows weren't going to work either.

"The plywood does not feel like it coincides with our values of a congregation of being open and the heart of the city," Steitz said.

They connected with Phil "Sike Style" Shafer, a well known Kansas City muralist.

"We said we have this canvas up right now, what could you do with it," Steitz said.

Shafer got to work.

"There were already messages painted on the walls here, but I think it was like we need a very specific message," Shafer said. "We needed a focused message and you know I'm glad I'm able to be the one to help the church do that."

Different posters with various messages now cover the wall.

"The most important words are 'Black Lives Matter', following that with, 'Say their Names,'" Shafer explained. "The word Rise is important because we want people to rise up together and come together. We want folks to know peace and to know justice as well and that's a really important statement for the church, myself and I think the community here."

Posters of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd also covered the walls.

"Putting the faces with the names underneath of it, so you have the black and white image, a bright red bar and the white letters for their names; lots of contrast," Shafer said.

Showing contrast, yet the posters as a whole, echoing a message.

"This is a memorial, but it's also a call to action," Shafer said.

Shafer expressed the pieces are intentionally supposed to look like propaganda.

"Because we want to get people's attention to be like this is propaganda for good," he said. "This is propaganda from the streets for the community, for a message that's important for everyone to know and share - we want people to come and take pictures of these."

And Rev. Steitz says the posters have prompted more open and meaningful conversations right on the front steps.

"I've sat on our front steps a lot, it has become our prayer porch," Steitz said. "Talking with media, talking with police, talking with protesters as they come up and down and pass. And talking about what's happened and just being engaged in that conversation has been really important for us."

It's a prayer porch for some, and a canvas for Shafer.

"Art speaks to us in very different ways and I don't speak enough but I hope my art speaks volumes in what I'm feeling and what I want to share with the community," Shafer said.

"I paint a lot of murals around the city, thousands of square feet worth of murals," he said. "Some of the messages get lost just in the pretty pictures, but sometimes you really have to spell it out in black in white to say what's important."

Shafer said while he is an artist, these messages are bigger than art.

"We have to remember that we’re not just a part of the art community and focus on high-level art, but it’s important to speak to the community," Shafer said. "A member of the art community, member of the hip hop community, member of the black community, member of the community of the church, you know and the city."

He said he encourages artists to keep speaking up with their voices.

"Keep saying what’s important, what needs to be heard and you know, let people now," Shafer said.

It's in hope of sparking discussions that aren't always easy to have.

"Jesus tried to give voice to people who feel like they didn't have a voice in the world, and I think Phil's art helps to do that," Steitz said.

Shafer said with the help of The Local Printshop, he was able to print off several posters to showcase on the church walls.

The posters will be up for another month and a half, then they'll be moving to different locations across the city.