A graduate of Chicago’s prestigious School of the Art Institute, Damon Lamar Reed is a portrait and inspirational mural artist whose pieces can be spotted throughout the Chicagoland area. His work – centered specifically around the theme of communal upliftment – portrays the Black experience in the United States.
Damon Reed: A Brief Introduction
“I bring the gallery to the neighborhood and the neighborhood to the gallery,” Reed said about his work, which masterfully reflects the urban environment that influences him on a daily basis.
Reed’s work bridges the gap between “the gallery” and “the neighborhood” by exposing aficionados of art to a side of life with which they may be unfamiliar, while beautifying inner-city neighborhoods with gallery-quality artwork.
“Good public art creates culture. It feeds the soul, it uplifts,” Reed explained. “Not everyone is going to a gallery, but if they walk by something I’ve created, it’ll have the same impact.”
Reed’s pieces are among the best murals in Chicago and are highly recommended destinations for those visiting the city. The locations of the inspirational mural artist’s nearly 100 public works can be found here.
Beyond creating visual art, Reed is a “gospel hip hop” artist. His spiritually inspired songs fuse uplifting faith-based themes with aggressive street bravado. Reed’s music, like his art, reflects the dynamic beauty and struggle of growing up in an urban community. His 2019 hit “Bulletproof” juxtaposes deadly street violence with spreading the word of God throughout the community.
Reed has been embedded within Chicago’s hip hop and art scene since the late ‘90s, and has worked with notable musicians, including a young Kanye West before he rose to international fame. He’s much less concerned about commercial success, then he is about the impact of his words. “The message is the most important thing any artist communicates,” Reed noted.
His current visual project communicates an important message: Those who are gone are not forgotten.
Still Searching – Inspirational Mural Artist
Damon Reed’s Still Searching is a collection of portraits and murals that depict missing Black women from the Chicagoland area. “I do it to raise awareness, I do it to bring honor, and I do it to create something beautiful,” he remarked.
His connection to the project is deeply personal. Reed’s aunt and two female cousins were murdered in 1984, and their deaths remain an unsolved cold case. After his mother made a social media post in remembrance of their tragically killed family members, Reed questioned what he could “do as an artist to bring about a solution for these issues.” His answer was to paint their portraits and launch Still Searching.
Black people make up a third of Chicago’s population, but represent an overwhelming two-thirds of the city’s missing people. Black women aged 11 to 21-years-old account for a quarter of active missing person’s cases in Cook County. Very few of them receive significant media attention and their cases often go cold.
Reed strives to bring these forgotten women into the public eye. “I want to show the world that, yes, we are still searching, and we’re gonna keep going until we find answers, until we find resolution,” he told Your Everyday Heroes.
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Yasmin Acree was only 15-years-old when she was declared missing in 2008. Her case received very little media exposure, until the inspirational mural artist painted her as part of Still Searching.
“Damon is a godsend. I remember when my daughter showed me the picture, and I was stunned,” said Acree’s aunt Shakelia Jackson. “And I prayed for him (Damon)… God touched him, He used him to wake up everyone… it’s the passion, it’s everything that he put into this work. It spoke to me personally. It brought awareness to such a dark place.”
The project has resonated beyond the missing victim’s devastated families. Still Searching has the backing of Chicago itself, after Reed was awarded a grant from the city to expand the project. His future murals will include QR codes that link to details about the missing women depicted and a method to contact the authorities with information.
Reed is optimistic about the project’s impact. “The more people are talking about this… maybe someone won’t directly call in… maybe it’s a detective who’s like, ‘Let me look back into this case.’ It’s that ripple effect that I believe it’ll have.”
Hopefully his assertion is correct. True crime stories have become a national obsession, and projects like Reed’s give otherwise forgotten victims the attention they deserve. In the case of missing college student Kristen Smart, the podcast Your Own Backyard led to the arrests of two suspects 25 years after the 19-year-old Cal Poly freshman disappeared. Reed believes that the Still Searching project will have a similar effect.
Why We Chose To Feature Damon Reed
The definition of heroism is often misunderstood. Society tends to perceive famous celebrities and sports stars as “heroes” because of their wealth, status, or power. This view undermines the potential for normal people to be recognized as heroes.
Damon Reed is an everyday hero because he uses his incredible artistic talent to lend voice to women forgotten by the world. The inspirational mural artist has reignited interest in these women’s cases and reassured their grieving families that we are still searching.
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Beyond being one of Chicago’s most famous mural artists and a musician, Reed is a family man, so it’s no surprise that his own personal hero is his wife Nicole.
Nicole was diagnosed with lymphoma, which her doctors told her was terminal. Despite being told the disease was a death sentence, she maintained an optimistic attitude as her health declined and left her wheelchair bound.
“She didn’t tell anybody that she had cancer, during that whole time she was still helping people and praying for people,” Reed proudly stated. “Nobody ever knew until the chemo was over.”
Nicole miraculously survived, she has regained the ability to walk, and her cancer has gone into remission. “She’s telling people, hey look what God did, he can heal,” Reed continued. “And she’s really affecting other people’s lives just from that testimony.”Nicole’s refusal to lose hope during the darkest circumstances has inspired Reed in his work on Still Searching.
The Mark Of An Everyday Hero
Your Everyday Heroes has been proud to shine a light on the story of inspirational mural artist Damon Reed.
He may be one of the most influential mural artists in Chicago, but beyond his raw talent, Reed has an overwhelming passion for helping people, and the desire to create a legacy that has an enduring, positive impact on local neighborhoods. Still Searching proves that he is more than an artist: Damon Reed is a humanitarian and a leader within his community.
“I feel like the art has moved to civic engagement,” Reed noted. “I’m painting women that are missing, but it’s about keeping safe the women that are here.”
If you are interested in learning more about Damon Lamar Reed and the Still Searching project please take a look at the following links.
- Reed’s official website, where you can view his art, listen to his music, and learn more about the inspirational mural artist.
- The official website for the upcoming Still Searching documentary.
- Reed’s Bandcamp page, where you can listen to and download his music.