Legacy of Elkhart’s Love mural will live on, despite having to be demolished

NOW: Legacy of Elkhart’s Love mural will live on, despite having to be demolished

ELKHART, Ind. - The beloved mural has attracted thousands of eyes at the corner of Main and Prairie in Elkhart since 1996.

Many stopping by to take photos and say goodbye to what is being called a piece of Elkhart history before it comes down in the next month.

"This is a mural I drive past every day,” said Trevor Wendzonka the Communications Director for Elkhart Public Library. He, like each Elkhart resident that spoke with ABC57, had their own story to share in relation to the mural that has stood tall over the visible city corridor over the past nearly 30 years, untouched and never vandalized.

"Everybody has a different connection to it, so to see so many people stopping by and taking pictures and reigniting a conversation on social media has been heartening,” said Corinne Straight, the City of Elkhart’s Director of Communications.

The mural, has a story of its own, going back to the 1990s when artist Kelby Love shared his talents with his hometown, to bring a message of peace to the community, after the city saw 48 fatal shootings involving teens in just 29 months.

"It was the pain the community was feeling that lead Kelby to create this mural to express that there's more than violence. There's hope, and peace, and love that can be found if we look within ourselves,” said Wendzonka who shared Kelby’s story in an Elkhart Public Library blog post.

Kelby, who passed in 2018, with a heart for the community sought to find unity stroke by stroke, in companionship with an effort to get guns off the streets, with a gun buyback program.

The image depicts a figure with long flowing hair reaching down to separate the two figures who drop their guns in surprise.

Above the heads of the two figures is a brown hand and a white hand clasped in unity, a book and an apple for the schools, a cross, for the faith community, a garden for new growth, the Violence Intervention Project logo, with its’ central figure holding out hands to stop conflict,  the houses of Elkhart, and four figures – adults and young people – with their arms linked all in hopes to end the violence seen across the city and promote a message of unity.

While the message to put the guns down is timeless, the brick behind it is not.

At nearly 100 years old, the city says it cannot stand any longer, after exploring all options with structural engineers as they redevelop all of the 1000 block of South Main.

"Understanding the importance of this mural to everyone who lives here in the city, once we learned it could not be saved, we did the next best thing which was capture some high-quality pictures of this mural,” said Straight, on behalf of the city.

While the mural may be the last physical example of Kelby’s work. His legacy will carry on along with the mural, even after it comes down.

The city hopes to share high-definition images with whoever develops the next building in the original’s place so it can be recreated.

The Elkhart Public Library continues to tell Kelby’s story and is to name a meeting room at their Pierre Moran Branch in his honor.

"That's the great thing about art. Is that it lives forever, and you can always appreciate what the artist, his time his energy, his passion, and that lives on although Kelby passed at such a young age,” said Wendzonka.

In hopes to continues to inspire generations to come.

"There's generations coming, and they should know, they, like Kelby Love, can accomplish great things, right here in Elkhart," Wendzonka added.

The city says the demolition project will start on the north end of the block and work its way down ending with the wall, so folks will have a month or so until it comes down to take pictures and say their goodbyes.

They hope to save any bricks that are salvageable to put on a pallet for folks to grab a piece of the legacy when it’s gone.

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