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Seven new murals expand Lakeview’s public art initiative in 2018

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The neighborhood has earmarked 30 more potential art sites

Four mural panels painted by Caroline Liu near the Southport Plaza at the Low-Line
Caroline Liu / Curated by Johalla Projects

Lakeview is determined to become an art destination and, after putting out a call for artists in April, the neighborhood is on its way to having one of the largest collections of public art. So far, seven projects have been commissioned for 2018.

Chicago artists like Lauren Asta, JC Rivera, and Don’t Fret are lined up to paint murals this year through an effort led by Special Service Area 27. The public art this year was funded with about $60,000 from SSA 27. Several of the locations selected for the art will be along the Low-Line, a half-mile path underneath the Brown Line tracks in Lakeview.

Beginning on Tuesday, you’ll be able to see artists working on three murals at the Low Line’s Paulina Plaza. Lauren Asta, known for her funky black and white characters, and JC Rivera, famous for The Bear Champ character, will be painting next to each on their own designs.

Asta typically doesn’t plan out her artwork—she likes painting freehand so the art grows more organically. However, for the proposal application she had to plan and sketch a lot more than other projects. The art will feature the neighborhood’s slogan, “This is Lakeview” and show little characters sipping coffee or enjoying items from the Low-Line market.

It’s not unusual for Asta to attract crowds—she loves answering questions and having people take photos while she works.

“I’ve had people come up to me from the middle to the end of a mural. They slowly approach me and take pictures everyday and tell me how much my work has changed their day to day life. They started running or painting things again, just because they saw someone start and finish something massive,” Asta told Curbed Chicago.

One of the best parts of painting in such an active public space is that residents pass by going to work in the morning and coming home in the evening. Lots of them will get to experience the mural’s progress in the same way that Asta does, she said.

Asta is also excited to be painting right below JC Rivera. The two artists are friends and Rivera helped Asta get familiar with Chicago when she first starting out in the city. Rivera’s mural will feature The Bear Champ and you’ll be able to see him working on it from the Paulina station platform.

Lauren Asta
JC Rivera

The third mural at Paulina Plaza will come from the Yollocalli Arts Reach students and lead artist Chris Silva. Yollocalli is the youth initiative at the National Museum of Mexican Art and provides programming for kids interested in the arts.

Yollocalli began in 1997 and Silva has been a teaching artist with the program for years. About 15 students, between 13 to 18 years old, will help with the art Silva designed and also get to incorporate a bit of their own stenciling. Working with Yollocalli is “grounding for me and keeps me connected to the original spirit of my goal as an artist—to keep things light, playful and exciting,” Silva told Curbed Chicago.

Silva grew up in Lakeview, so it’s special for him to come back to the neighborhood and paint. The last time he did was when there were graffiti walls throughout the neighborhood in the mid-90s. His artwork this time will feature colorful birds and pop-art patterns.

Yollocalli Arts Reach / Chris Silva

The three murals at Paulina Plaza are expected to wrap up in August. Next in line is a 2,500-square-foot mural on the west wall of the CVS on Southport, although the artist for that project hasn’t been announced yet. In the fall, Don’t Fret is planning a mural for the Lincoln Hub, the intersection at Lincoln, Diversey and Belmont avenues.

Earlier this year in May, Caroline Liu finished a series of four, double-sided mural panels near the Southport Brown Line station at one end of the Low-Line. In June, George Berlin painted a mural to accompany a new sidewalk seating area by Sheil Park.

These seven projects are “just the beginning,” said Dillon Goodson, the community development director with the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. Within Lakeview’s four square miles, there are about a dozen works of public art and the neighborhood group has flagged more than 30 potential sites for more art.

After lots of community outreach, it’s clear residents want to prioritize public art, Goodson said. In order to make that happen, the neighborhood is focusing on fundraising and finding a diverse range of artists to commission.

“Art is more than a beautification tool,” said Goodson, “It stops people in their tracks and builds stronger connections in places that we share. We’ve valued art from the beginning and recognize the potential behind public art in the same way that Logan Square or the Loop has. Twenty years ago those places wouldn’t have been on anyone’s list for public art but that’s changed. Now we have the resources to showcase artists in a similar way.”