The Drive By Project, a Cocomocha Studio initiative was started as a way to beautify abandoned buildings in Chicago communities. Positive symbols created and pinned to boarded up doors and windows. We wanted these forgotten places to be a reminder not of the challenges in our communities, but that there can be beauty and color in the darkest of places.
Chicago neighborhoods have experienced peaks of violence in recent months. The unfortunate truth is that we attribute the violence only to one area in which it’s happening. “The shootings are a thing of the South Side. " its been said. "As long as its not happening on our front door, we aren’t talking about it". But what happens when there is act of violence in our own backyard?
Some people hide behind the shades. They live in fear. They feel hopeless. Others walk through the chaos, like it’s part of every day living. They think it will never change. But there are a few brave souls who set fear aside, standing strong for the community, making bold statements of unity.
The #DriveByArt Project made an appearance Sunday night at a South East Side neighborhood of Chicago in response to recent violence in the area. Derric Clemmons of Cocomocha took to the streets of 81st and Houston to deliver some 'food for thought': Strong messages in the form of art, pinned to the trees of his community. “I want people to know that we care, that they are heard, that they don’t stand alone,” said Clemmons.
Isaac Jackson, a resident of the area, assisted the dying victim of the recent shooting. “It’s a shame that we have fought this issue for so long. We welcome the art pieces to the block. I want to see more.”
Clemmons planted so called “community candies” where people drive, walk, and live by. “Focus your mind” & “Common Sense-good for you” are just some of the messages that can be seen. The response has been positive thus far. Neighbors are coming by to check out the artwork on trees. Some want them in front of their own homes. Mary Lumbreras, a resident of the area, says she will support Cocomocha and the Drive By Project. “I will do everything to help Derric. This is our neighborhood and I will support it.”
Police officers patrolling the area have stopped by to check it out. It’s not something they’ve seen before. The Drive By Project is not a typical protest, but a call to positive action. The art messages are meant to involve anyone who comes across them.
Luz Castillo of Cocomocha also contributed to the cause with “¡Alarma!” style messages. ¡Alarma! Spanish for“Alarm” is a Mexican news magazine that specializes in graphic pictures of violence. In Cocomocha style, Luz’s messages were of peace and respect for life.
Nakesha Walker, an art contributor for the Drive By Project said, “I would want people to see that our communities engage with one another. It’s important to have a strong community so that the people have a voice for change. With this alliance, we will do our best to help communities find their voice and to make communities better through visual expressions”
Cocomocha is currently working alongside other Chicago artists like Mynor Paredes, David Anthony Geary and Sandra Perez-Lara. The Drive by Project is soon to release more artwork in Chicago communities.
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” -Eckhart Tolle.
-by Sandra Perez-Lara