Barely two years after venturing into the art space, newcomer Janel Young has been making waves on Chicago’s art scene by creating vibrant public artworks. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Young has crafted both indoor and outdoor murals across Chicago, adorning spaces like retail stores and nonprofit organizations.
Her portfolio, called JY Originals, showcases a wide range of designs, from crafting a Black History logo for Yahoo in 2021 to having her work featured at the 2020 U.S. Open tennis championship. In her hometown of Pittsburgh, Young’s artistic output has been remarkable, spanning from street murals and pandemic-related social distancing artworks to collaborative 3D murals with students and an art-adorned basketball court in her former Beltzhoover community. The city was so appreciative of her contributions that it officially declared October 23, 2019, as “Janel Young Day.”
Notably, she designed a 30-foot-tall mural on the exterior of Safer Foundation’s community office building, featuring U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis. The mural commemorates Davis’ efforts in supporting the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society by providing necessary resources. There are plans to rename the building after a US Representative in recognition of his pivotal role in the Second Chance Act of 2007, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Young’s versatility as an artist is seen in her digital creations. She has contributed designs for diverse projects, including the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, labels for a Black-owned beer, and a coloring book. Her distinctive use of vivid colors and geometric patterns has gained recognition globally, reaching from New York City to Sydney, Australia.
Young is included in the 2023-2024 Chicago Public Art prequalified list, a selection of artists and organizations aiding in choosing individuals for public art projects by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Chicago Public Art Program.
She is also currently engaged in a fellowship with Independent Sector, a collective of diverse creatives and changemakers aiming to empower communities. Young, residing in Peterson Park, has a dual role as an artist and community leader, aiming to inspire through creativity and play.
Her journey started off at an early age. Despite her mother not recognizing herself as artistic, the family often embraced arts and crafts activities. These early experiences were pivotal in the creative journey. Attending a creative and performing arts middle school was transformative. This period marked a deeper involvement in painting and participation in a mural team, allowing exposure to larger-scale projects.
Young worked at a PR agency in New York City as a digital strategist, doing what she described as a lot of creative stuff with digital and social content. She, however, wanted to be the one to execute the creative ideas so after five years, she quit and started volunteering at a mural company in New York. She got hired there and that kicked things off, she said.
In January 2021, she got a call from Yahoo to design their Black History Month logo, making history as the first outside artist ever commissioned to design the company’s logo, CBS News reported. She used two weeks to design the logo with her iPad. The final version came with the Pan-African color scheme, some tribal patterns and her signature cartoon, the outlet said.