The North Austin Branch Library. | Provided

Austin teens will soon have an opportunity to design and paint a mural in the teen section of the North Austin Branch Library at 5724 W. North Ave.

Organizers of the Chicago Asset Mapping Project (CAMP) — a joint project between the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special events, and the League of Chicago Theaters — have been working with local residents in Austin and other South and West side neighborhoods on a variety of storytelling projects. 

Arystine Danner, the library branch’s manager, said that she’s been asking for a project like CAMP“for years,” because she wanted local teens to be able to put their stamp on a space of their own. 

CAMP and library staff are currently trying to recruit at least eight teens in grades 8 through 12 to work on the mural through the summer, with the goal of putting up the finished product before the school starts this fall. The artists emphasized that all teens are welcome, even if they’ve never painted or designed anything. The virtual orientation meeting will take place on June 1, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

CAMP recruited 13 artists to do outreach in nine neighborhoods, mostly on the South and West sides of Chicago. Designers Sydney Lynne and Eric Hotchkiss are working in Austin. 

“Our involvement is working as liaisons in the Austin neighborhood to kind of collect stories and share the cultural vibrancy of the  neighborhood,” Lynne said. “That means going out and telling the stories about the area and what has been important to the neighborhood.”

She said that they conducted several workshops. While asking about cultural institutions in Austin, the North Austin Branch Library kept coming up, so they decided to reach out to Danner.

The library got a teen section in June 2018, after being closed for renovations for 10 months. It was set up in what was previously the back of the adult section. Since then, teen librarian Marche Pernell and other branch staff have been trying to spruce up the section. 

Even before Lynne and Hotchkiss approached the library, they thought a mural would make a good addition to the teen space. 

“Teens need to feel like they’re safe and welcome, because there aren’t a lot of teen spaces in the area,” Pernell said. “They need to see a little bit of themselves and Austin. That’s the most important thing.”

Hotchkiss said that their first step would be to talk to teens and hear what’s important to them and what they feel is important to Austin. Hotchkiss referenced the Wall of Respect, a collaborative mural depicting African-American historical figures painted in 1967 on a vacant building in Bronzeville. 

“We want people who have a story to tell,” he said.  “I’m always excited for teens who say they’re not an artist. I think everyone is an artist.”

To register for the June 1 informational session, visit

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...