Vaseline restores street art to improve skin health

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BALTIMORE: Ernest Shaw, a Baltimore artist, has not only created original public art, like a mural celebrating the city’s Negro Leagues history and a portrait of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall — but also reinvigorated existing work.

Four years ago, Shaw worked on a mural featuring local Black leaders that had deteriorated after three decades.

He’s also restored his public work “African in America” as part of a campaign, Mended Murals, from the skincare brand Vaseline.

The Unilever brand’s campaign features mural restorations by original artists in Baltimore; Brooklyn, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and soon in Austin, Texas. 

The efforts aim to raise awareness of disparities in skin healthcare and increase access to care in the cities with the murals.

“The Mended Murals initiative was created to showcase that without proper care and resources, murals that were once a vibrant reflection of the culture and people in those communities can often fade,” said Yoni Klein, Unilever head of U.S. skincare. 

Mended Murals builds on See My Skin, a Unilever platform in which visitors can see images of people of color, who are often lacking in dermatology searches online. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that, using Google, image-search results for 71 skin conditions resulted in 91.7% light-skinned results out of 3,700 photographs. 

On SeeMySkin.com, consumers can also connect with dermatologists who understand the cultural, physical and mental needs of people of color, according to the website. 

A three-minute campaign video showcases the restoration of the murals, which have been enhanced with a QR code that connects to the campaign website. The brand is also donating $250,000 to health clinics in the cities that feature the mural restorations, Klein said.

“Over time, murals decay, just like anything else,” Shaw said in the video. “I always want to create work where melanated people can find their humanity somewhere in the imagery.” 

Shaw’s piece in Baltimore features the city’s “squeegee kids,” young people who offer to clean the windshields of cars stuck in traffic.

The brand is also sponsoring a panel at South by Southwest in Austin featuring Elaine Welteroth, former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and judge on “Project Runway,” about “the importance of representation and skin health equity and how art and tech can help champion this mission,” according to Edelman, which is managing PR for the campaign. 

VML was the creative agency on the campaign, while Ogilvy managed influencers, Mindshare handled paid media and U-Studio, Unilever’s in-house creative agency, worked on social media.

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