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Local Artist Mentors Teens to Create Garrett Popcorn Mural

By Wendell Hutson | August 11, 2013 8:45am
 A group of students from Kenwood Academy and Simeon Career high schools assisted a local artist to create a mural for a Garrett Popcorn store in Chatham.
Youth Painting
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CHATHAM — A mural 30 high school students helped design for a Garrett Popcorn Shop will be unveiled Aug. 19, and that has Asanta Cunningham really excited.

The 16-year-old senior at Simeon Career Academy High School aspires to one day become a professional graphic designer.

"I love to draw and design things. Working on this mural was a good project for me because it allowed me to share my talents with the community," Cunningham said. "As a young person I think giving back to the community is key."

Cunningham and the rest of the youths, who participated in the mural design, are part of After School Matters, a Chicago nonprofit for youths. Students attending Simeon and Kenwood Academy High School worked the mural project.

The unveiling is Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. at Garrett Popcorn, 737 E. 87th St. At noon a complimentary bag of popcorn will be handed out to customers who whisper "After School Matters" when ordering, said Brittany Johnson, a spokeswoman for After School Matters.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to join Mary Ellen Caron, CEO of After School Matters, for the unveiling, Johnson added.

Rahmaan “Statik” Barnes, a local artist and Chatham resident, coached students.

"I love working with teenagers. Each year students help me design a mural," said Barnes, 32. "I recently unveiled a mural put together with the assistance of four students from Kenwood High School for the Metropolitan Family Services (in West Englewood) on 64th and Kedzie."

Barnes added that for the last 10 years, he has overseen the mural program at Kenwood, which partners with After School Matters.

After starting off as a graffiti artist, Barnes said he got tired of getting arrested and having his designs washed off walls and defaced by vandals.

"That's when I decided to go 'legit,'" recalled Barnes.

What the Garrett Popcorn mural depicts, according to Barnes, are images of youths doing everyday things, such as young boys banging empty buckets as if they were drums, girls braiding each other's hair and boys playing basketball.

In a statement, Garrett Popcorn officials said the murals are a good way to be engaged with the community.

"We are thrilled to continue to support the growth of the neighborhood by working with these talented and ambitious teens," said Melissa Mikolajczak, executive vice president of marketing for Garrett Popcorn.