Four new murals are brightening our fair city, and the first was completed in early July at 1815 Norwood Court.
I had never heard of Norwood Court, but it is the short, dead-end street along the west side of the tracks, the one that runs from Lyons to Clark Street, accessible by turning east off Ridge Avenue on Clark or coming from the south via Oak Avenue.
The mural Live Inspired, by artist Molly Z Credit: Photo by Gay Riseborough
The mural, titled Live Inspired, is by artist Molly Z, her mural moniker. (It’s Molly Zakrajsek, really.)
The composition is one of abstract shapes in bright colors – the only distraction is a huge, bright-red Coke Studio billboard behind the utility wires above the mural. (Who put that there, anyway?) The mural was financed by Trulee Co.
Trulee Evanston is the new senior living building that looks out on the Norwood Court mural. Like several other close-to-the-tracks residential buildings, a mural definitely does brighten the residents’ view.
The mural “Fluent Foundations,” by Molly Z. Credit: Photo by Gay Riseborough
Molly Z has another mural in Evanston, on the north side of the Grove Street viaduct, at Elmwood Avenue called Fluent Foundations. The title is a sly reference to the efflorescence coming through viaduct walls all over the city. That mural was painted in 2019 with the help of teens from the Evanston Township High School Fine Arts dept.
The “Custer Street Oasis” is getting a bright, new wrap around the Metra embankment mural. Financed by the Main-Dempster Mile, it starts under the viaduct on Main Street and moves around to the west, traveling up the exit ramp and ending about where the trees begin.
Artist Brett Whitacre works on a mural at Evanston. Credit: Photo by Gay Riseborough
The artist, Brett Whitacre, lives in Rockford but has murals all over Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Rockford and 11 in Norwalk, Conn., where he was hired to enliven a “dying” shopping mall.
Here in Evanston, he is working with a college intern, also from Rockford, who needs 200 hours of “art-related anything” this summer. Whitacre is even working at night, by the light of a large streetlamp on Custer Street.
Artist Brett Whitacre’s new mural sits near Custer Street. Credit: Photo by Gay Riseborough
Whitacre says “I do stuff that’s likable. I’m not too deep – I want the majority of people to like my murals.”
He is accomplished with spray paint and uses an imported acrylic that is archival and high in pigment content. The paint is made in Barcelona, Spain, but is called Montana, of all things. He tapes his shapes before spraying them, in the manner of a stencil. A delightful flower garden alongside the mural has been planted by the Main-Dempster mile.
The muralist Max Sansing sits on a scaffold. Credit: Photo by Gay Riseborough
Artist Max Sansing is painting a large mural in the Metra turnaround north of Davis Street. It has no name yet, but its theme came to him as he experienced, read and thought about the last rough two years and about how many people have turned to nature to ease their anxieties. He researched plants native to Evanston and the painted plants will extend all the way to the bottom end of the Metra staircase. Downtown Evanston Is financing the mural.
Sansing started by painting graffiti murals with friends. Then he attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He’s now been painting murals for more than 20 years, has worked with CPAG (the Chicago Mural Arts Project) and has traveled to Sweden, the Middle East and Puerto Rico to paint them. He says people there know him when he arrives, and that’s exciting for him.
Artist Max Sansing works on a mural on Davis Street in Evanston. Credit: Photo by Gay Riseborough
His sketch was not projected onto the wall, a common way of laying out a mural (at night, of course). To enlarge the heads to such a huge size, Sansing uses a unique system of landmarks rather than a grid. He says it takes a lot of planning.
There will be a UV coating on the mural when it is finished, he told me, which helps sustain colors over time. Reds in particular can fade from the sun, he explained.
Sansing uses the same spray paints that Brett Whitacre uses, although his Montanas are made in Germany, he says. He loves doing murals as “the artist has the advantage of doing something lasting.” And this one will last longer than usual as this is not a retaining wall with a potential effluence problem.
EMAP, the Evanston Mural Arts Project is the brainchild of Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris, two Evanston artists. They began painting murals together back in 2005, forming a collaboration called Mix Masters.
As such, they led many large-scale mural projects around Chicago. They also managed the “Mile of Murals” in Rogers Park for seven years, along the CTA Red Line track from Estes Avenue to Pratt Boulevard.
Mural artist Max Sansing and his work-in-progress at Davis Street Metra station Credit: Photo by Evan Girard
In 2017, Pinsky and Harris created EMAP, specifically to beautify spaces in Evanston with murals. They have organized murals here for both commercial and private purposes – finding funding, sourcing artists and volunteers (sometimes even painting themselves) and supervising logistics such as legal permissions (often difficult to get, from Metra and CTA, but “not this time,” says Pinsky.) They also handle coordination with the community, traffic barriers and Arts Council communication.
Beverly Sholo (Image from Evanston Art Center)
Recently, EMAP became affiliated with Art Encounter, a 44-year-old organization founded by three Evanston artists and of which, Lea Pinsky, is now the executive director. Art Encounter is a nonprofit dedicated to educating, empowering and connecting people through interactive encounters with visual art. They run events, studio visits, walks, tours and travel programs.
A third mural is planned for the east wall of the building housing Curt’s Café but next to Swan Lake Cleaners, at 2920 Central Street, on the corner with Lincolnwood Drive. The artist will be Beverly Sholo, a mixed-media artist and experienced muralist living north of Chicago. The design is abstract, drawing inspiration from workshops with the Curt’s students who expressed an interest in a surreal design that had the feeling of dreaming and journeying. Sholo recently completed an interior mural project at the Curt’s Cafe in Highland Park.
It is a pleasure to see new artwork going up in Evanston. It certainly has been a while.