DeKalb to receive a $50k T-Mobile Hometown Grant

DeKALB – The city of DeKalb announced Thursday it was one of 25 towns in the country to receive a $50,000 grant from T-Mobile that will go toward the city’s public art mural projects.

DeKalb’s Hometown Grant will go toward funding a multi-year public arts mural project to enhance community spirit and promote local arts and culture, according to a news release.

DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes said that he couldn’t be happier to have more public art in the community.

“The grant money will primarily focus on murals downtown, around the community and on community pride: Huskie Country and belonging,” Barnes said. “We really want to reinforce the concept on belonging.”

The mayor’s comments referred also to a public initiative that started in 2021 in partnership with the city, Northern Illinois University and other public entities, focused on identifying ways to address equity and inclusion in the greater DeKalb community.

Over the past year, the city of DeKalb has hosted a number of public painting days for projects throughout the city to create murals that highlight the community. In June 2021, Project Underpass was completed, a mural located in the pedestrian underpass below Lincoln Highway that connects NIU and Prairie Park in DeKalb.

The city of DeKalb’s mural project website has a list of city-owned properties that can be used in a mural application, including the community center and annex building at 330 N. Grove St., DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport hangars, the streets division building at 1316 Market St., the water division building at 1216 Market St., the cold storage building at 1510 Market St., Barb City Manor at 680 Haish Boulevard, City Hall, the police station, fire stations, water towers, water treatment centers and well houses.

Barnes said DeKalb’s Citizens Community Enhancement Commission helped drive the grant process.

“It’s wonderful to have one of our commissions making a difference in the community without taxpayer money,” Barnes said.

T-Mobile Hometown Grants are a five-year initiative to support the people and organizations who help small towns across America thrive and grow by providing funding to kickstart important new community development projects. The grants, started in April 2021, are part of T-Mobile’s commitment to be a part of rural American communities and to help small towns thrive.

T-Mobile plans to provide $25 million for community development projects in rural areas through 2026.

Barnes said that 40TUDE, a group of NIU students who provide affordable professional business consulting services for DeKalb County organizations, and DeKalb-based marketing and ad agency OC Creative also will help facilitate the mural project. The groups plan to make plaques with QR codes with information about local artwork, including the murals and painted fire hydrants located around DeKalb.

“I’m a big believer that art evokes an emotional reaction in people,” Barnes said. “When people come to the community from outside of it, they’ll see the beautiful art we have, and they’ll have a positive emotional connection with DeKalb. And for people that live here, they can take family and friends around and show off and be proud of the art and their community.”

T-Mobile and the city of DeKalb will host an official check presentation at 6 p.m. Monday during the City Council meeting at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St.