Arts and Culture

Seventeen #Breewayy banners were installed around Jefferson Square Park Monday

Community organizer Nicole Hayden said she had initially hoped to work with more than a dozen muralists to paint a “Black Lives Matter” mural on 6th and Jefferson streets. 

“The mission was to create a space for collective healing for the city of Louisville, and then basically a collaborative effort from the community organizers and protesters and local artists to come together to create art with a purpose,” Hayden said. 

But she said she was told by Metro Public Works that it couldn’t approve that.

Hayden was surprised by this given how Black Lives Matter has been painted on a street near the White House in D.C., as well as on streets in other cities around the country, such as Denver, Colo., Kansas City, Mo. and Charlotte, NC

“I didn’t understand why ours couldn’t be done,” Hayden said. 

In an email, Salvador Melendez, communications specialist with Louisville Metro Public Works, said the permit for the mural was denied “because it would have been in violation of Federal highway/roadway marking guidelines, which are in place for the safety of all users.”

Melendez said Public Works couldn’t comment on why other cities have been able to go forward with similar projects.

Disappointed, but not discouraged, Hayden changed course. 

She said the city proposed a banner that would hang from a building. But Hayden and her team didn’t have the funds for that. So they raised $5,000 in private donations for street pole banners.

The banners feature images of Taylor or pictures from recent protests, some with quotes from activists, like “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us,” said by Marsha P. Johnson. Hayden reached out to local photographers to use their images on the banners and then worked with a graphic designer. 

While not the original plan, Hayden said she’s happy with how the #Breewayy banners turned out. She also hopes that the banners will serve both as a reminder to say Breonna Taylor’s name and demand justice, but also to highlight what happened at Jefferson Square Park, known to some as Injustice Square or Breonna Taylor Square. 

“A lot of times it’s just portrayed on the media as a negative place, not to go and like they’re responsible for tearing up the city, and that in not true,” she said. “We wanted to highlight some of the positive things that have took place down there.”

Some of the #Breeway banners as seen around Jefferson Square Park on Sept. 15, 2020.

The square has been a gathering site for protests and some property has been damaged in the area over the last three-plus months. But it’s also become a venue for community gatherings like religious services and festive events. 

Louisville Downtown Partnership helped install the banners. These specific artworks will be up for about a month or two. But the “banner arms, newly installed, will remain a permanent asset in the square to display public art and Metro messaging,” according to an LDP statement.

The timing felt suspect for some, thinking the city might have green lit their installation to soften the blow of an announcement from the state Attorney General’s office on the Breonna Taylor investigation.

Hayden said she’s “been in this process for a long time.” And while she had hoped to get the banners up sooner so that they didn’t get “confused with what the outcome might be,” she thinks the original message of love, healing and justice still stands. 

As for the muralists Hayden had originally commissioned, she said she’s looking into ways to showcase their work. 

This story has been updated to include comment from Public Works and correct how long the banners will be up.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.