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An ode to Chicago: The Obama Presidential Center mural


October 10, 2023

Chicago artist pays homage to community and creativity on the South and West Sides

A mural dedicated to the South and West sides can now be seen along the fence on Stony Island at the site of the Obama Presidential Center. The three-panel mural was recently unveiled and created in partnership with Chicago based artist Brandon Breaux and 15 talented students attending the Dyett High School for the Arts. It centers the students’ inspiring voices and represents the culture of the community that gave the Obamas so much. 

For weeks, students worked with Brandon to create a piece that would inspire passersby. To him, the project was more than a collection of collage images and colors, and more than a tribute to the Obamas. It is a powerful statement of community, opportunity, and of the enduring legacy of the city. 

“The mural is a collage of our collective experiences. It’s an homage to the legacy of Chicago and the Obamas,” Brandon Breaux reflected. “I’m proud of the work we did—to create art that communicates to different kinds of people, allows them to see themselves in it, and respond to it.”

From the start of his career as an artist, Brandon says his mission has been to create pieces that not only capture the eye, but also speak to the soul.  

“My love for art began really early,” he shared. “My earliest memory is making drawings to give to my mom. I never stopped doing it. I think art was my way of understanding myself and the world around me.”

Brandon believes the piece will provide a glimmer of hope to those who need it most. He says the mural creation process was a fun and immersive experience that pushed everyone to be creative and discover their purpose.

Brandon Breaux, a Black man with a deep skin tone, stands over five seated students. On the table is an iPad and illustrations. He is wearing a mint beanie. Space art is on the wall in the background.

“I was the art director, but the students got to the heart of the piece. I wanted them to be free and expressive,” Brandon shared. “Creating a safe space helped them bring out their best. By the end of the final workshop, it felt like we were family.” 

As the mural began to blossom, so did Brandon’s role as a mentor to the students. He says this project was a way to pay it forward. 

“Mentoring them was a great honor and gift, because if it had not been for people who mentored me, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Brandon reflected. 

Brandon’s previous works include cover art for Representative John Lewis’s final reflections, “​​Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation,” an Ebony Magazine tribute to Andre Leon Talley, and directing and animating the award-winning digital series “What’s Good” for the Public Broadcasting Service. 

His work has gained global recognition, but he says his power comes from staying true to his values. He says that people from all walks of life are drawn to his art, find comfort, joy, and even healing within his creations. His work is a reminder to all that, no matter how small, our contributions can make a difference.

A hand with a light olive skin tone draws on a piece of paper. The illustration features a young girl, flowers, and butterflies.

Brandon says he hopes the Obama Presidential Center does what it sets out to do. 

 “I hope [the Center] helps people imagine what kind of future they want to live in—what future they want to see for their community and people in their lives,” Brandon shared. 

The mural is available for all to see at 62nd and Stony Island at the site of the Obama Presidential Center.

Art at the Obama Presidential Center

A man with a light medium toned and a mix of white and grey hair, works on a wooden piece of art. His face is covered by a plastic face mask.
A rendering of the Obama Presidential Center campus.

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