Chicago in Color: 7 Neighborhoods with Distinctive Public Art

The planned pedestrian path known as the Low-Line, taking shape underneath the Brown Line tracks in Lakeview, will be the site of some larger-than-life murals from Chicago artists. Special Service Area (SSA) 27 has provided $60,000 to fund seven art projects in the neighborhood in 2018 thus far, according to Curbed Chicago, and several of these works will be along the half-mile Low-Line.

Lauren Asta, JC Rivera, students from the Yollocalli Arts Reach, and Don’t Fret are some of the artists enlisted for the project. The neighborhood has also earmarked more than 30 potential sites for future public art.

“Art is more than a beautification tool. 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,” Dillon Goodson, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce community development director, told Curbed Chicago. The murals will be finished throughout the year, with the earliest wrapping up this month, joining two other works that have gone up in Lakeview this year. 

Lakeview isn’t the only neighborhood with a love for public art. Here are six other Chicago neighborhoods with eye-catching murals.

Logan Square

Logan Square 'Chicago' mural photo courtesy of Lacrossewi

Logan Square has a reputation as an artists’ haven, and this bastion of creativity is reflected in the diverse collection of public art throughout the neighborhood. When you climb the Logan Square Blue Line stairs up to the street level, you’re immediately greeted by a long, whimsical mural outside of the ‘L’ station. At Milwaukee Avenue and Prindiville Street, you’ll find a “Greetings From Chicago” mural, painted in 2015 as part of the national The Greetings From Tour. The spray-paint mural, done by New York graffiti artist Victor Ving, features classic Chicago imagery that pays homage to its sports teams, skyline, and culture.

Pilsen

18th Street CTA station photo courtesy of Adam Jones, Ph.D.

Pilsen may be the first name in Chicago street murals. The neighborhood’s National Museum of Mexican Art, the Chicago Urban Art Society, and Park Works teamed up to bring work by well-known street artists to Pilsen. The neighborhood’s CTA Pink Line station is covered in a rainbow of colors. At 16th Street and Halsted Street, the “Quetzalcoatl and the Stork,” painted by Gaia, depicts a melding of the neighborhood’s Polish and Mexican cultures. A walk through the neighborhood will take you past other famous pieces, like “Gulliver in Wonderland.” Artist Hector Duarte painted an entire two-story house with striking imagery.

Rogers Park

Rogers Park mural photo courtesy of Keith Cooper 

The Far North Side neighborhood of Rogers Park started a community project in 2007: the Mile of Murals. So far, the public art initiative has commissioned 10 large-scale projects that spread across viaducts, blocks, and an overpass in the neighborhood. In 2017, the project focused on two themed installations Resilience and Be Happy. The Mile of Murals project is now focused on bringing a mile of murals to the CTA Red Line from Estes Avenue to Pratt Boulevard, according to the project website.

South Loop

Columbia College building photo courtesy of Marco Verch

The Wabash Arts Corridor makes the South Loop business district visually arresting. Since 2013, Columbia College students have been creating public art on the stretch of Wabash Avenue that runs between Van Buren to Roosevelt. In addition to the massive murals, the Wabash Arts Corridor also has art galleries and performance spaces.

While you walk down the corridor, keep an eye out for a moose blowing bubble gum (“Moose Bubblegum Bubble” by Jacob Watts), a group of bicyclists (“Make Your Own Luck” by ASVP), and a monarch butterfly (“La Magia de Luiza”by Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes). 

Wicker Park / Bucktown 

Wicker Park street art photo courtesy of stephen boisvert

Wicker Park and Bucktown are close neighbors. The WPB Chamber of Commerce and SSA #33 work together to promote the public art that spans both neighborhoods. At 1166 N. Milwaukee Ave., the Cheshire Cat and his infamous grin tower over passersby. If you’re walking at North Milwaukee Avenue and North Wood Street, look down. Artist Thomas Wrecks painted a small yellow bird on the sidewalk, the “Flight Risk” work from the “Dead Bird” series. At 2052 N. Western Ave., you can see an untitled mishmash of pop culture icons (think Bart Simpson and Pokemon characters) gathered together in living color on a brick wall. 

Chicago wants to see more of this kind of work in its neighborhoods. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art,” an initiative which saw a $1.5 million investment in community art, according to the city’s website.

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