The Face Forward mural at 1834 E. 71st St. in South Shore, painted by Rahmaan Statik, features two vaccinated Chicago youth. The building is owned by South Shore resident Julia Perkins, whose Studio Yogi yoga practice will open there in early 2022. Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago

SOUTH SHORE — A mural on 71st Street aims to boost vaccine uptake among South Shore’s residents as the neighborhood’s vaccination rates lag and coronavirus deaths again outpace the citywide average.

Muralist Rahmaan Statik painted photographer Sandro Miller‘s portraits of vaccinated local teens Misael V. and Ayonna F. on the side of the former Studio 71 gallery, 1834 E. 71st St. The mural was completed earlier this month.

The South Shore mural is the first created through the city’s Face Forward vaccine project, said Ernest Sanders, executive director of partner organization South Shore Works. Many of the 200-plus young people Miller photographed also shared their hopes for the future in a virtual gallery.

The positive portrayals of vaccinated youth can spur discussion about the vaccine among their peers — “and maybe encourage [their] parents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” Sanders said.

Some of the young people featured Face Forward are seen on a mobile photo gallery that travels to various sites in Chicago, including a pop-up event this fall at Local Market, 2101 E. 71st St.

“I believe it is important to contribute to my community in whatever way possible,” South Shore resident Rashad B. told South Shore Works at the pop-up.

One in 222 residents has died from coronavirus in South Shore’s ZIP Code, 60649. The community’s death rate from coronavirus is three times the citywide average, according to the latest city data.

“Our fatality rates are going back up in January,” a “really alarming” fact given residents’ work to boost access to and awareness of the vaccine over the last year, Sanders said.

ZIP Code 60649 has the second-lowest vaccination rate in Chicago, and the fourth lowest of any ZIP Code entirely within city limits, as 50.3 percent of residents aged 5 and older are fully vaccinated. That’s compared to 70.6 percent citywide.

South Shore’s “vaccine hesitancy didn’t happen overnight,” Sanders said. “Folks became that way because they got misinformation or they didn’t have good information. [Projects like the mural] are committed to addressing the hesitancy that exists and getting people informed.”

South Shore Works is planning a wide-ranging program to complement the mural and encourage more people in South Shore to get vaccinated, with more specifics to be announced in the coming weeks, Sanders said.

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