Blog > Celebrating Local Communities Through Public Art
September 2, 2021
Celebrating Local Communities Through Public Art

Our mission is to inspire people to explore the world around them, together with others. As a part of our ongoing social impact initiatives, we’ve begun to support hyper local public art installations, in cities like San Francisco, Hamburg, Chicago and Detroit. This summer, we were fortunate enough to be involved in the first BLKOUT Walls Festival in Detroit, alongside our long standing partners at the Knight Foundation.

BLKOUT Walls Festival has taken on the audacious and incredible goal of bringing together Black artists in what is the first known fully Black led mural project in the US. The project was founded by Sydney G. James, Thomas “Detour” Evans of Denver, Colorado and Max Sansing of Chicago, Illinois as a direct response to their shared history of participating in mural festivals throughout the country, where there is no remuneration for the participating artists and where there is limited racial diversity among the artists represented. A total of 20 artists came together to paint murals across the North End of Detroit across a seven day period. In culmination, local community members were invited to celebrate the art at a festival focused on the neighborhoods and culture.

“We made a thing that wasn’t a thing a BIG THING and I'm stunned almost speechless. To quote a journalist who recently described this venture as “audacious.” At first glance, one might side eye the term “audacious.” But at the beginning and end of the day, We were audacious! We had the audacity to DREAM BIG and join together as a band of artists, a team of community leaders and organizers from Detroit and around the country to create a platform for Black artists, artist of color and our friends to show out! I am full. I am full of gratitude; For my city, arts community, family, brand partners and friends I am full.”  - Sydney James, Lead Artist

As a direct collaboration between Niantic and the Knight Foundation, we’ve worked together to use digital capabilities to promote and amplify the art that’s been created. Using our maps API and in-game locations repository, we’ve created a walking tour that can be taken both in Niantic’s games, as well as with a printed map during the festival itself.

“The North End is home to the most creative and progressive artists in Detroit and has historically been a neighborhood where Black culture was created and celebrated. The opportunity to work with Sydney James and Niantic to elevate the artistic and innovative DNA that lies at the core of this community is inspiring,” said the Knight Program Director for Detroit, Nate Wallace.

Over the week in which murals were painted and added to Niantic games, more than 8,300 people came to learn more about the mural project, walking over 12,000 KM to explore both the neighborhood and the artwork itself.

We applaud the work of the artists who participated in the project and look forward to seeing the impact it continues to make in the larger Detroit community. If you want to learn more, check out the BLKOUT Murals here.

- Yennie Solheim, Director of Social Impact

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