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Painting Progress: Placemaking Projects for MLK Holiday BR 2023

Mural at MLK Center being painted by volunteers courtesy of Matthew White

Beginning in 2016, The Walls Project helped start the annual MLK Festival of Service, which brought together citizens from the Greater Baton Rouge area to volunteer and help revitalize the city. Today, with the Mayor-President's Office, City of Baton Rouge, and Office of Community Development leading, MLK Holiday BR has become a network of over 100 community organizations that paint murals, create urban gardens and forests, and clean up parks and neighborhoods all over the city of Baton Rouge.

This year, the Walls Project still led four volunteer events, including two placemaking activities. These activities included painting a mural at the MLK JR Community Center in District 7 in partnership with Councilmember LaMont Cole, and another public placemaking installation in District 2 in partnership with Councilmember Chauna Banks at the Jewel J. Newman Community Center near the airport. The Walls Project also offered two urban agricultural volunteer opportunities through its Baton Roots Program, including a garden bed clean-up at the Clarksdale Community Garden and another at the garden at Capital High School.

Photos from Jewel J. Newman Center Placemaking Project by Matthew White

The volunteer events engaged hundreds of volunteers from Southern University, LSU, City Year, Giggle Girls, Our Lady of the Lake, DOW Chemical, ExxonMobil, CPEX, BRAF, and many other organizations and individuals who came together to support the community. The efforts of The Walls Project and volunteers helped to revitalize and beautify the city, and have also brought people together to work towards a common goal.

Photos from Clarksdale Community Garde Project by SK Groll

[Walls] was so responsive and kept us in the loop with giving us information for the MLK events! We're so glad we got to participate in the activities and able to help make the vision come to life for the projects at District 2.

- Shawn J. Coleman Jr., City Year Community Partnerships Manager

In addition to the physical improvements to the city, the MLK Holiday BR promotes a sense of connectivity and social responsibility. The event encourages residents to come together to help improve their districts and to take pride in the place they call home. These types of efforts are crucial for the continued growth and development of Baton Rouge.

Photos from MLK JR Center Placemaking Project by Matthew White

Planning an event as large as MLK weekend is such an amazing experience. Volunteering in any capacity is always beneficial to the community that is being serviced, but adding the artistic component allows others to service while also engaging in an experience that they might ordinarily steer away from. Many tend to not operate in artistic capacities for fear of not being an artist, but at the walls we have the privilege of creating a space that allows creativity without requiring those 'qualifications'. The goal was beautification and service and we successfully accomplished both

- Ashli Ognelodh, Walls Artist in Residence

These annual large-scale volunteer movements remain valuable opportunities to bring the city together for collective progress. Through the efforts of volunteers and service organizations, the event remains a great example of the positive impact that community service can have on a city and its residents.

Thank you for all the support from our volunteers, Councilmembers, City of Baton Rouge, Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome, Office of Community Development, BREC, DPW, DOTD, AARP, CDBG, and many more!

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