LUV Institute launches Parade of Hearts

The Love, Unity & Values (LUV) Institute, a Chicago non-profit, unveiled a new series of neighborhood art installations on Wednesday to launch the Parade of Hearts, an initiative to commemorate the collective struggles of the past year and uplift communities through restorative justice as a means of societal healing.

The Parade of Hearts features 12, five-foot fiberglass 3D hearts placed in various Chicago South Side neighborhoods. Following a series of community conversations with restorative justice facilitators, the hearts were designed by local artists to depict the communities’ values and vision of a “new normal” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice tensions.

Since 2013, the LUV Institute has worked to provide opportunities and resources to youth in underserved communities through after-school programs, vocational skills development and other intensive supportive services. Over the past year, the LUV Institute recognized widespread trauma in children and adults alike, and saw an opportunity to bring their work into the community to support teachers, individuals, and young people as society collectively defines its “new normal.”

“Historically, public art projects are usually downtown,” said Cosette Nazon-Wilburn, the LUV Institute’s founder and executive director. “We intentionally chose to bring the Parade of Hearts to the neighborhoods where Chicagoans are experiencing the greatest hardship. Through the healing and restorative justice that the hearts represent, we hope to inspire change and transformation in communities across Chicago.”

The hearts have been installed in the Back of the Yards, Chatham, Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn neighborhoods. As artwork, the hearts embody a variety of themes through creative techniques — for example, one heart portrays cloth in a patchwork pattern to symbolize the mutual strength found in close-knit communities, and another depicts a young man covering the eyes of a young woman to represent trust.

“The LUV Institute has made huge strides to uplift our youth and the Parade of Hearts comes as a creative and inspirational extension of this necessary work,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “I am beyond grateful to this organization, its partners and the artists involved for not only bringing this initiative to life, but engaging in important conversations about how to create artwork that truly commemorates and represents the beautiful diversity of our neighborhoods. It is my hope that these thought-provoking installations will inspire similar conversations among residents and visitors alike both today and well into the future.”

While hearts are on display through the end of October, a virtual treasure hunt called “The Hunt for Good: LUV Edition” will help Chicagoans connect with and learn from the communities who participated in the Parade of Hearts, followed by an auction on Saturday, October 16.

“Chicagoans need to have important conversations about racial justice, community and kindness. We need to listen to one another, and lift each other up to grow together,” said Damon Lamar Reed, a contributing artist. “The Parade of Hearts means so much to the communities involved and the artists who come from those communities. I am proud to have created a reflection of an important healing conversation that occurred in Hyde Park.”

To learn more about the LUV Institute and the Parade of Hearts, visit http://www.luvinstitute.org/.

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