Four new murals brighten up our fair town and the first was completed in early July at Norwood Court of 1815.
I’d never heard of Norwood Court, but it’s the short cul-de-sac along the west side of the tracks that runs from Lyons to Clark Street, accessible by turning east on Clark from Ridge Avenue, or coming south via Oak Avenue .
The mural, titled live inspired, comes from the artist Molly Z, her nickname for murals. (Actually, it’s Molly Zakrajsek.)
The composition consists of abstract shapes in bright colors – the only distraction is a huge, bright red Coke Studio billboard behind the power cables above the mural. (Who put that there anyway?) The mural was funded by the Trulee Co.
Trulee Evanston is the new senior living building facing the Norwood Court mural. Like some other residential buildings near the tracks, a mural definitely brightens the residents’ view.
Molly Z named another mural in Evanston, on the north side of the Grove Street Viaduct, on Elmwood Avenue Flowing fundamentals. The title is a sly nod to the efflorescence that comes through viaduct walls across the city. This mural was painted in 2019 with the help of teens from Evanston Township High School’s art department.
The Custer Street Oasis gets a bright new mural surrounding Metra Dam. Funded by the Main-Dempster Mile, it begins under the viaduct at Main Street and moves west, going up the exit ramp and ending about where the trees begin.
Artist Brett Whitacre lives in Rockford but has murals throughout Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Rockford and 11 in Norwalk, Conn., where he was hired to revitalize a “dying” mall.
Here in Evanston, he’s working with a college intern, also from Rockford, who needs 200 “arts-related” hours this summer. Whitacre even works at night by the light of a large street lamp on Custer Street.
Whitacre says, “I do things that are personable. I’m not too deep – I want the majority of people to like my murals.”
He is finished with spray paint and uses an imported acrylic that is archival and rich in pigment. The paint is made in Barcelona, Spain, but it’s called Montana of all places. He glues his shapes before spraying them, like a stencil. A delightful flower garden was laid out next to the mural on the Main-Dempster-Mile.
Artist Max Sansing is painting a large mural on the Metra bend north of Davis Street. It doesn’t have a name yet, but his theme came to him as he lived through the last rough two years, reading and reflecting on it and how many people have turned to nature to ease their fears. He researched plants native to Evanston and the painted plants will extend to the bottom of the Metra Staircase. Downtown Evanston is funding the mural.
Sansing started painting graffiti murals with friends. He then attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He has been painting murals for more than 20 years, has collaborated with CPAG (Chicago Mural Arts Project) and has traveled to Sweden, the Middle East and Puerto Rico to paint them. He says the people there know him when he arrives and that’s exciting for him.
His sketch was not projected onto the wall, a common way of framing a mural (at night, of course). In order to enlarge the heads to such a huge size, Sansing uses a unique system of landmarks instead of a grid. He says it takes a lot of planning.
When the mural is finished there will be a UV coating, he told me, which will help preserve the colors over time. Reds in particular can fade from the sun, he explained.
Sansing uses the same spray paints as Brett Whitacre, though his Montanas are made in Germany, he says. He loves making murals because “the artist has the advantage of doing something permanent”. And this one will last longer than usual as this is not a retaining wall with a potential sewage problem.
EMAP, the Evanston Mural Arts Project, is the brainchild of Lea Pinsky and Dustin Harris, two Evanston-based artists. They began painting murals together back in 2005 and formed a collaboration called Mix Masters.
As such, they directed many large-scale mural projects throughout Chicago. They also managed the “Mile of Murals” in Rogers Park along the route of the CTA Red Line from Estes Avenue to Pratt Boulevard for seven years.
In 2017, Pinsky and Harris created EMAP specifically to decorate rooms in Evanston with murals. They’ve organized murals here for both commercial and private purposes – finding funding, sourcing artists and volunteers (sometimes even painting themselves), and overseeing logistics like legal permits (often hard to come by, from Metra and CTA, but “not this time” ). says Pinsky.) They also handle community coordination, traffic barricades, and Arts Council communications.
EMAP recently became a member of Art Encounter, a 44-year-old organization founded by three Evanston artists and of which Lea Pinsky is the executive director. Art Encounter is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, empowering and connecting people through interactive encounters with visual art. They conduct events, studio visits, walks, tours and travel programs.
A third mural is planned for the east wall of the building that will house Curt’s Cafe, but adjacent to Swan Lake Cleaners, at 2920 Central Street, on the corner of Lincolnwood Drive. The artist will be Beverly Sholo, a mixed media artist and veteran muralist based north of Chicago. The design is abstract and was inspired by workshops with the Curt students, who expressed an interest in a surreal design that conveys the feeling of dreams and travel. Sholo recently completed an interior wall project at Curt’s Cafe in Highland Park.
It’s a delight to see new art being created in Evanston. It’s certainly been a while.