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Vacant Wabash storefronts to get Bauhaus-inspired murals

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The hope is to attract new businesses with the public art

Three people stand in front of a window and paint a design with red, black and green.
Artists painting the Bauhaus-inspired murals.
Photos by Eric Masi

Can public art bring energy and new business to empty, downtown storefronts? The Chicago Loop Alliance thinks so and is coloring in dark, vacant shops with bright Bauhaus-inspired artwork.

At the beginning of December, four Chicago-area artists began painting colorful murals on the windows of four vacant storefronts on on Wabash between Lake Street and Monroe Street to help attract new tenants.

“If we make the Loop a vibrant destination, business will come,” said Ian Zeitlin, public space manager for Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA). “Transforming vacant storefronts into art installations accomplishes multiple goals: It makes the street look more alive and attractive to the public, but it also, in turn, makes these spaces attractive to businesses.”

The artwork is inspired by the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus School, the visionary German art and design school, founded in 1919. Hitler’s Nazi regime forced the school to close in 1933 but its influence has been felt worldwide. That includes Chicago, which saw “The New Bauhaus” design school open in 1937—spearheaded by Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy.

The neighborhood organization hired Michelle Kliman of the design studio MK Studio to head the project and oversee the work by muralists Jennifer Wandro, Carla Bank, Bee Harris and Ponnopozz. The Bauhaus “Wabash Windows” all use a primary color palette “inspired by the school’s revolutionary aesthetic,” according to a statement.

Bauhaus color theory centers on 12 of the purest colors that cover a range by being lightened or darkened. It’s most common to see primary color shades like red, blue, yellow. The design movement was also known for using bold, geometric shapes to create striking patterns.

Three of the murals will be located at 129 North Wabash, 55 East Washington (on side windows facing Wabash) and 28 South Wabash, with a fourth location yet to be finalized. Artists will be wrapping up the murals through Thursday.

A woman walks by one of the murals on the sidewalk.
A mural pops with bright colors behind some scaffolding.