n|a designlab


St. Laurence Board-Up

Lead for process design and implementation

The life of buildings, especially large neighborhood-based spaces such as a school, have immense influence in communities. But over the last few generations through vicious cycles of segregation galvanizing racist attitudes into policy that enhances those attitudes, many social spaces have fallen into disrepair.

To bring the St. Laurence School into community conscious as an asset once again, the Place Lab team developed an artist-led youth summer program in partnership with the nearby CPS school, the South Shore Fine Art Academy. Students aged 11-14 were provided stipends and a full meal each day, and received instruction in design, art-making, and mural painting. Led by Chicago mural artist, Ruben Aguirre, students spent their first afternoons in the archives of Ebony and Jet magazine at the Stony Island Arts Bank, exploring pattern-making as a lens to view culture and identity. The students sketched, and then translated their patterns to plywood sheets. House painters helped to fill in the color, and a board-up contractor mounted them over the building’s bare openings – turning the structure into a community artwork with over 100 patterned boards.

The process created a fresh community imprint on the building. For the families of the students involved, the work rekindled memory about the place, ignited a new history, and began to harness local stewardship.


St. Laurence School
1353 E. 72nd St, Chicago

Place Lab team
South Shore Fine Arts Academy teaching staff
Ruben Aguirre, Teaching artist

Principal Participants
Students enrolled in the South Shore Fine Art Academy summer programming, 2016

Project Tags

Photos courtesy of Becca Waterloo