CHICAGO (CBS) — When unrest broke out in Chicago last summer, boards went up to protect businesses as best they could. But shop owners never expected those boards would become powerful public art.

The pandemic clashed with protests and riots in the city, which led to businesses reinforcing their storefront with sterol plywood boards.

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That blight immediately became a blank canvas for artists Missy Perkins and Barrett Keithle.

“Barrett is like, ‘We are going to paint the block.’ And I’m like, ‘No, we are going to paint the city, Barrett. Our community needs us right now,'” said Perkins.

So they picked up paint brushes a

nd cans of spray paint, enlisting the help of 60 or so Chicago artists to “paint the city,” which is now the name of their movement.

“Overall, the response was amazing, especially in the South and West sides,” Perkins said. “Neighborhoods that don’t see a lot of public art to begin with.”

The barriers that protected businesses now are covered with messages of hope, and Perkins said in some cases, a way to start a dialogue about racial inequalities.

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“I think artwork is a really great way to start those conversations,” Perkins said.

In many cases, the beautiful murals on the boards was left untouched.

“Yes, that was a big thing we noticed, is that once when we put artwork on these boards, the businesses didn’t get vandalized again,” Perkins said.

The boards eventually were removed, but the art continues to tell a story and serve an even bigger purpose. They will be on display starting this weekend at the DuSable Museum of African American History.

“There’s no more meaningful form of expression than to have those displayed for all of Chicago to see,” said Perri Irmer, president and CEO of the museum.

“It represents our mission, which is to heal the city through art,” Perkins said.

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It is a healing process that is far from over but well under way.

Charlie De Mar