“Black Lives Matter” street mural work put off by morning rain, day still not a washout

Raheem Elmore spray paints outlines for letters in the street mural that will read “Black Lives Matter” as Fogg looks on. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Saturday morning’s wet weather did not mean a complete washout for work on a downtown Bloomington “Black Lives Matter” mural.

By around 11 a.m. on Saturday, a slight misting drizzle had turned into a legitimate light rain, puddling the pavement along the block of 6th Street, on the north side of Bloomington’s downtown courthouse square.

That’s where the planned painting of Bloomington’s second “Black Lives Matter” street mural was set to take place through the day, with volunteers working 45-minute shifts.

Anticipating that the pavement would not dry out in time to complete work, even if the rain stopped, a decision was made to waive off the volunteers for Saturday and try for a backup rain date.

Clad in coveralls at the site on Saturday morning, Sean Starowitz, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts, told The Square Beacon that the tentative backup date has now been set for June 5. That’s a few weeks later than one announced earlier.

By around 5 p.m., the rain had stopped and the pavement had pretty much dried out.

It was dry enough that one of the artists leading the project, Raheem Elmore, wanted to try to spray paint the outlines of the block letters for the “Black Lives Matter” slogan.

That way, volunteers would be all set earlier on the day of the rescheduled painting work, Elmore told The Square Beacon. Elmore is working on a dual doctorate in English and African American and African diaspora studies. The other lead artist on the project is Christina Elem, also an IU graduate student, studying arts administration.

By 7 p.m., Elmore, with help from Fogg—the artist who runs the Fogg Beach art gallery on Kirkwood—had finished the work of outlining the letters in the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Each word gets a line. The words are oriented so they’re readable from the side of the street opposite the courthouse.

When the decision was made to cancel the mural work for the day, the line of orange traffic barricades blocking off the street was parted to allow through traffic. By the time Elmore and Fogg repositioned the orange traffic barricades, so that they could work on letter outlines, several people had parked their cars in the spots along that block.

That meant that Elmore and Fogg were alert to motorists who wanted to be able to make their exit. One option was the mid-block alley heading north from 6th Street. Another option was to jog to the end of the block and move the orange barricades.

One of the guiding principles of the work to outlining letters Elmore put this way: “It doesn’t have to be straight. It just has to be uniform.”

That meant Elmore interspersed his painting by checking the size of letters, and the spacing between them. He measured off segments heel-to-toe with his work boots until he was content that uniformity had been achieved—that the “A” in “BLACK,” for example, was the same size as the one in “MATTER.”

On the sidewalk heading east, a man strolled past after Elmore and Fogg had laid out most of the “Black Lives Matter” phrase on the street.

He sized up their work without breaking stride, saying to no one in particular, “Yes, they do.”

Photos: BLM street mural April 17, 2021

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