Elkhart native returns to mural he painted 20 years ago

Kelby Love, an artist originally from Elkhart, designed and painted the mural at the intersection of Main and Prairie streets.

Posted on Aug. 5, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 5, 2013 at 3:55 p.m.

Kelby Love, an artist living in Scottsdale, Ariz., visits Elkhart once a year to connect with family and friends.

But on Monday, Aug. 5, Love stood at a spot in downtown Elkhart he hasn’t stood at in more than 20 years.

In the ’90s, Love helped organize and paint the mural at the intersection of Main and Prairie streets, displayed on the side of a building once known as Louie & Kelly’s.

Love, originally from Elkhart, is in town for the month as he paints a mural for Elkhart General Hospital’s pediatrics unit.

Love’s downtown mural was a product of the Violence Intervention Project, an initiative organized in 1992 to create community dialogue on violence-related issues. Love said he was asked to sketch and paint a design that would reflect the project’s goals.

He chose to feature a figure reaching downward to stop two people fighting with guns. A white and black hand shake in the background in reconciliation.

“It was about someone greater coming down and stopping violence,” Love reflected, “about minorities getting together and expressing our values of family and church.”

Love said the formation of the mural was communal in nature. He recruited local youth by the dozen to help paint the building, calling out colors and sections for them to paint.

“Everyone did something,” he said. “I don’t need my name on there, because it was the community that was involved.”

Now, the brick beneath the mural is beginning to crumble. But Love says not only has the paint “not faded much,” but the mural’s message is still relevant.

“The peace and race relations are still important,” Love said.

Construction for the new overpass at Prairie Street will take place near the mural. But the building is not one that will be purchased and torn down through the project, Leslie Biek, an engineer for the city, said.

Love said he would be glad to help touch up the mural if it needs it someday. He noted that the mural has not been sprayed with graffiti as far as he knows.

“No one has touched it,” he said, “because everyone knows who did it. It was this community.”

He said he enjoys returning to Elkhart yearly to be with friends and to fish.

“I’m proud of the city I come from,” he said. “It always calls me back.”

Love’s work can be found at kelbylove.net.

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