Skip to main content

CNN Instagram challenge: The stories behind public murals

By Tim Lampe and Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
updated 3:39 PM EST, Tue December 17, 2013
Photographers shared their favorite murals and the stories behind them in CNN's first Instagram challenge.
Photographers shared their favorite murals and the stories behind them in CNN's first Instagram challenge.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Photographers share stories of their favorite murals for CNN's first Instagram challenge
  • Murals pay tribute to political leaders, social justice movements, coffee shops
  • Mural in Toledo, Ohio, of boy laughing "stands for hope and change," Instagrammer says

This is the first in a series of community assignments for CNN and CNN iReport through the Instagram platform. For each challenge, we'll ask our Instagram followers to take a picture and and tell a story about it. Follow CNN and CNN iReport on Instagram for the next challenge, and your image might be included in our next feature.

(CNN) -- We often walk past them without a second thought, but most murals tell a story about the communities in which they live. And yet, as features of our public spaces, they mean something different to each of us when we view them through our own individual filters.

For our first CNN Instagram community assignment we invited followers to photograph murals or street art in their communities and tell us about them. We were thrilled to see more than 300 submissions from all over the world and hear the many stories behind them.

Below are just a few highlights. Check out all of the submissions by searching the #CNNMuralStories tag in Instagram.

Erica Firpo: Rome, Italy

Erica Firpo captured the latest mural by renowned Italian street artists Sten and Lex, whose stencil art has appeared in cities worldwide. This mural on the side of a building in Rome's Garbatella neighborhood was completed in December. "This abstract landscape (a deviation from their usual pointillist portrait) was entirely locally crowd-funded and chosen by the neighborhood to be a permanent public work, blurring the lines between street and fine art," Firpo noted.

Ragheeb Faatih Moazzem: Chittagong Port, Bangladesh

Ragheeb Faatih Moazzem's Instagram depicts a portrait of 20th century Bengali statesman Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of the movement that led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. Rahman later became the first president of the Bengali state. Found on a wall near Chittagong, the country's largest seaport, the portrait commemorates a historic speech by Rahman that called for liberation from Pakistan, Moazzem said in his Instagram post. "If it hadn't been for Bangabandu (friend of Bengal) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his historical and emotional speech, we would to this day be the victims of oppression and torture. We are forever in his debt."

Jorge Quinteros: Brooklyn, New York

Jorge Quinteros came upon this work in progress in Brooklyn. The artists told him they'd been working on this mural of Nelson Mandela for three days. They told him that they owned the wall and typically used it as advertising space. "We had a little spare time from work and we wanted to pay tribute to this amazing man."

Kimber Kirton: Miami, Florida

Kimber Kirton documented a mural created this year by Evoca1 for 2013 Art Basel Miami Beach. The South Florida-based artist aims to "merge art and humanity together for a timeless collection" through his art and Sketches for Mankind, a collective whose work includes outreach to Miami's homeless population. This mural is based on sketches the artist created from photographs of two homeless men. Word has it that the artist brings his subjects to the completed walls and shows them these beautiful interpretations, Kirton said. "I can only imagine their emotional response, for even mine changed when I took a second glance at it after learning its backstory."

Julian Castaneda: Uppsala, Sweden

Jullian Castandea showed off his pride in his small city in Uppsala, Sweden, and its coffee roasting plant "Lindvalls Kaffe." Located near the plant, the mural proudly proclaims "En Bönas Väg," which means "The Road Of The Bean," Castaneda said. "We may be a little city, but at least we can be proud to say that the best coffee -- 'Lindvalls Kaffe' -- is done right here."

Mike Gutkin: New York, New York

Mike Gutkin captured an authentic 20-foot section of The Berlin Wall in its current residence in a plaza in Midtown New York. Commercial real estate developer Tishman Speyer acquired the graffiti-sprayed wall in the 1990s. It "was crazy standing next to this awesome piece of history," Gutkin said.

Emily Rippe: Toledo, Ohio

Emily Rippe documented the Carter family in front of a mural in Toledo, Ohio, known as "Juleeon's mural." This public art is the result of a partnership between Art Corner Toledo and Food for Thought, a social justice organization dedicated to feeding the hungry. "The Carters are just one of many families combating hunger on a daily basis. Amidst the struggle, 11-year-old Juleeon maintains a smile that could span the Midwest. His mural stands for hope and change in cities and towns across the county," Rippe said.

Jeremiah Cowan: Atlanta, Georgia

Jeremiah Cowan captured this piece by Atlanta muralist HENSE on the side of Westside Cultural Arts Space building. "This mural inspires me because of its pop of color in a gray area of town. I feel like this mural brings life to the Atlanta community," he said.

Keith Weaver: Atlanta, GA

Keith Weaver met Kenny, an Atlanta resident, while exploring historic Auburn Avenue, the home of Martin Luther King. Jr. He has lived in Atlanta longer than Weaver has been alive. They talked about Kenny's life, the history of the area and the community played in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Weaver took his portrait in front of a wall created by artist JR that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. "This wall and this portrait remind me of the struggle citizens of my country went through for equality, opportunity, and freedom," Weaver said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Living reflects your life. From advice for modern parents to the freshest news in food: It's all here.
updated 5:11 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
Some classrooms are building in time for students to work on passion projects that teach students how to learn from failure.
updated 11:32 PM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
So many parents dread the teenage years -- the eye rolling, door slamming and lack of conversation. But there are ways to get a teen to open up.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
Shelves full of knickknacks, chairs piled atop tables, dusty toys dangling from the ceiling: That's enough for some to flee a flea market.
updated 11:37 AM EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
When Sarah Fox's boyfriend died, she was devastated just as a wife would have been. But others didn't always see her pain the same way.
Willow, a 12-year-old Labrador retriever, has watched over the vines at Long Island's Bedell Cellars since she was 10 weeks old.
updated 4:38 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
martha stewart wedding costs
Weddings are a glorious celebration of the union of two souls. They're also a lightning rod for family drama.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT