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Rochester artist Shawn Dunwody turns MLK Park into giant chalk board with community’s help

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Park, has been painted black and is covered with positive messages written in chalk as part of an artist installation meant to create a place for people to come and spread positivity.

Shawn Dunwoody is the man behind “The Empire Strikes Black,” the latest project from the Rochester native, part of the black lives matter movement. 

“So I’m trying to take that step forward to make sure that I can change not only my future but my grandchildren’s future and everyone’s future,” Dunwoodys aid.

MORE | Empire Strikes Black: Rochester artist Shawn Dunwoody transforms MLK Park with community’s help

It took two days, ten hours, and 100 gallons of paint  to turn the bowl at Martin Luther King Jr memorial park into a huge chalk board.

Traditionally built as a amphitheater, Dunwoody said the bowl was the perfect place for the art.

“Since people are gathering here, to give their freedom of speech, to talk about black lives matter and other issues that are concerning their heart and soul, I said why don’t we give them a canvas, an area of which to express themselves,” said Dunwoody.

Dunwoody also painted the black lives matter street art close by and says he already heard stories of his art bringing people together, he is hoping this newest piece will continuing to do just that.

“A gentlemen who was talking about all lives matter, and one who was talking about black lives matter, and they actually had a chance to have a conversation that they might not have had otherwise if this arena was not in place,” said Dunwoody

“Almost a peace making zone, where people come together and actually read what other people are saying and I think that’s a valuable point.”

There’s no word on how long this black paint will be here, so for anyone in the area it’s the perfect time to come down and write a message before it disappears.

Dunwoody is one of Rochester’s most recognizable artists — recent civil unrest and momentum behind the Black Live Matter movement have only amplified his message.

Just last week, Dunwoody led a crew of people in painting “Black Lives Matter” in blue on Court Street in Rochester.

Dunwoody’s work often involves collaborative efforts, like the Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass statue unveiled outside School No. 22 earlier this year, which was aided by students of Rochester School of the Arts.

Another example was during last year’s Jazz Festival when Dunwoody spearheaded an initiative to paint piano keys, with help from volunteers and festivalgoers, on the crosswalks at Main Street and Gibbs Street in downtown Rochester.

Back in 2018, Dunwoody sat down with News 8 anchor Adam Chodak to talk about growing up in The Crescent of Rochester and his mission to spread good will through art.