She Returned to the Scene of a Hate Crime, and this Happened: With Artist, Sam Kirk

Sam Kirk leaning on a bicycle
Sam Kirk's murals aren’t just about aesthetics, they're stories that promote inclusivity and redefine public spaces. Brad goes beyond Sam's art to uncover the person that she is. A queer individual from a mixed-race family, Sam's stories of resilience and journey of self-discovery are as captivating as her art.

Sam Kirk’s murals are not just about aesthetics, they’re stories that promote inclusivity and redefine public spaces. This episode takes you through Sam’s journey from her magnificent installation in Times Square to her deeply personal mural in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago near where she was the victim of a brutal hate crime.

We go beyond Sam’s art to uncover the person that she is. A queer individual from a mixed-race family, Sam’s stories of resilience and journey of self-discovery are as captivating as her art. She delves into her coming out experience at an all-girls high school, and the challenges she faced in her decision to become an artist This episode paints a vivid picture of Sam Kirk – the artist, the advocate, and the trailblazer.

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About Sam Kirk

Sam Kirk is Chicago based multidisciplinary artist, who explores culture and identity politics. Her artwork focuses on a variety of intersections which encompass a call to celebrate differences and enact change. Vivid and powerful images of women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and those who have historically been excluded are celebrated in narratives that share the journeys that have made them who they are.

Throughout her childhood, her family’s frequent moves to a variety of Chicago neighborhoods sparked her fascination with the nuances of the human experience. It was during these moments where she found herself discovering the cultures of the city and sorting through her own identity as a bi-racial, queer woman. Kirk’s artwork, much like her life has been an on-going discovery about how life’s experiences impact our identity. Her vibrant color palette, intricate line-work and layered backgrounds highlight cultural communities via multi-toned figures recalled from interactions with people around the world.

Kirk’s public murals often address social issues, as she intentionally uses the public space to spark dialogue around topics of equality and visibility. She is the first woman and American to participate in the Annual CASAMOUJA Street Art Festival in Casablanca, Morocco. A commission by World Business Chicago and the City of Casablanca, Kirk created the “Sister Cities” mural as a celebration of 35 years of programming between Chicago and Casablanca. In 2022, she collaborated with her wife to create a 60ft mural that celebrates marriage equality and the Afor-Caribbean cultures of Costa Rica in Alejuela, Costa Rica.

Kirk’s has been recognized for her work through several awards, both community based organizations and industry institutions : 2023 Leppen Leadership Award, About Face Theater, 2021 Telly Award, Communicator Award, LGBTQ State of Illinois Honoree, 2020 Davey Award, Human First Award, 2018 Chicago Revueltas Award, 2017 3Arts Make a Wave Award, 2014 Curators Choice Scope International Art Fair Art Basel Miami

Kirk has exhibited extensively at venues including museums and galleries across the US. Her public artwork has been commissioned nationally and internationally to recognize cultural achievements, acknowledgements of progress, and to share the stories of our communities.

Her work has been featured in top publications such as O Magazine, Forbes, and recently was listed as one of the top 50 Artists of 2020 in Chicago by New City Magazine. Her collaborations include global brands and US based non-profit organizations such as Disney, Harper Collins, Xfinity/Comcast, World Business Chicago, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and WBEZ.

Kirk resides in Chicago, proudly on the Southside.

Episode Details

In this captivating episode of “Queer We Are,” host Brad Shreve delves into the extraordinary journey of artist and activist Sam Kirk. Through engaging storytelling, Sam shares their experiences as a queer person, the challenges faced, and the transformative power of art in advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. From the pressures of the advertising industry to empowering through public art installations, Sam’s story is an inspiring testament to the importance of embracing our true selves and promoting inclusivity.

Embracing Creativity and Nurturing Artistic Passions:

Sam Kirk’s love for creativity and the artistic process has been a driving force throughout her life. However, her early foray into advertising made her realize that the seemingly glamorous industry came with its own set of challenges. The high-pressure environment, tight deadlines, and frequent rejections pushed Sam to explore alternative avenues to express her creativity. Thankfully, Sam’s role in client management exposed her to essential skills in contracts, negotiation, and licensing that would prove valuable in her future endeavors as an artist.

Navigating the Complexities of Identity:

As a queer individual, Sam’s journey to self-acceptance was not without its obstacles. Her path to understanding her sexual orientation began with being outed in high school, an experience that held profound ramifications for Sam’s relationships with friends and family. Despite the initial struggle, the revelation allowed Sam to shed the cloak of secrecy and live her truth openly. Sam’s pride in her identity is evident in their unwavering commitment to championing LGBTQ+ rights and representation.

From Chicago’s Diverse Neighborhoods to Global Encounters:

Growing up in Chicago’s culturally rich west and south side, Sam’s experiences within a mixed household further heightened herr awareness of navigating the world differently. Coupled with her identity as a lesbian, Sam’s exploration of various neighborhoods instilled a curiosity for diverse cultures and perspectives. This thirst for firsthand human interaction and experiences led Sam to become an avid traveler, seeking to bridge gaps and foster understanding.

Overcoming Hate and Creating Safe Spaces:

While Sam’s work has garnered love and support, they have also faced hate and bigotry. A hate crime that she experienced in Pilsen, a neighborhood in Chicago, served as a turning point. Rather than succumbing to fear, Sam decided to create a mural in the very neighborhood where she was attacked. The unexpected receptiveness and gratitude from the community shattered preconceived notions, demonstrating the transformative power of art to break down barriers and promote acceptance.

Art’s Impact on Community and Self:

One of the most touching moments in the episode is when Sam realizes the profound impact her art has had on the LGBTQ+ community. The creation of murals and large-scale installations not only allowed Sam to find closure but also inspired joy and pride in others. Through her ongoing commitment to collaborations, Sam continues to push boundaries, advocating for change and celebrating the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community.

Closing Thoughts:

Sam Kirk’s journey is a testament to the power of embracing creativity and the importance of showcasing marginalized voices. Her ability to harness the transformative nature of art to spread messages of inclusivity and acceptance is truly remarkable. As we listen to Sam’s story, we are reminded of the significant role that each of us plays in creating a more welcoming and diverse world.

Join Brad on “Queer We Are” and celebrate Sam Kirk’s incredible journey and find inspiration in her determination to make a difference through their art.

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