During Do-Division last weekend, the shiny, sparkly new mural at Division Street and Honore Avenue caught the eye of many people walking by who stopped to take photos of the colorful scenes of children at work and at play.
The mural on LaSalle II Magnet School‘s brick wall, dedicated June 3, was created through a partnership with the Green Star Movement, a nonprofit that works with students to beautify public space and create a unique arts program. They used a technique called “bricolage,” an intricate culmination of mosaic, sculpture, painting, mirror and photography that is “used to tell stories and transform space,” said Green Star executive director Kamelia Hristeva.
Students from LaSalle II and Hans Christian Andersen Elementary School (which will be merged into LaSalle II this fall, according to the East Village Association) had a hand in creating the mural, which took about five weeks.
“Each day several different classrooms came out and participated in every aspect of the installation, from mirror application, tiling, grouting, sculpting and painting,” Hristeva said. “Every step has the students’ touch on it, and this is what really becomes the most important part of the puzzle. This becomes their piece.”
While working on the mural, which includes scenes that represent the school’s Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish and Urdu classes, the students and Green Star were in plain sight, allowing members of the neighborhood to share in the experience of creating it.
“Every day we were encouraged by the voices of the people that would now see this bricolage everyday,” Hristeva said. “Most importantly, this allowed for the students to see the type of impact such work has on a neighborhood.”
“When art is in the public eye it meets a whole other audience,” said Anna Cerniglia, founder of Wicker Park arts organization Johalla Projects. “This audience might never walk into a gallery or have access to be exposed to it. I believe it can affect someone’s day in a more positive way than there being nothing there at all.”
Johalla (1561 N. Milwaukee Ave.), which started in 2009 as a gallery space for emerging and mid-career artists, has had its hand in many of the public art projects done around the neighborhood, including the recent “Urban Dwellers,” two silver-painted deer installed in an empty lot at 1827 N. Milwaukee Ave.
On display for at least a few months, “Urban Dwellers” was created out of a collaboration with Johalla Projects and Vicki Fuller of Green Park Eco Garage.
“Though there is a wide assortment of animal shapes to choose from, deer seemed a wise choice for this project,” said artist Andrea Jablonski, who’d already been working with taxidermy and hunting decoys. “Deer are native to this geographical area and are often seen in yards. I wanted to create a reminder of the natural landscape.
“I wanted them to look natural, so viewers would be like, ‘Oh, deer … oh, wait …’ But still behind the fence to deter vandalism.”
Johalla led several other projects in the past year, including the black-and-white mural on the side of the Walgreens at Milwaukee Avenue and Wood Street. It’s also in the early stages of creating a mural at Tocco (1266 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
“We are trying to keep the facade of their restaurant but keep it bright and exciting,” Cerniglia said. “This mural is also a collaboration with our alderman. Since we take such a different look on projects like this, he has been working with us. We are waiting for approval on extending the mural onto the sidewalk.”
Public art like the LaSalle II mural has an opportunity to bring a diverse community together, Hristeva of Green Star Movement said.
“One bricolage and one neighborhood at a time, we are working towards unifying the eclectic and beautiful communities of Chicago.”